It was August, 1862, nearly a year after the party at Col. Mockbee's, that I
was formally enrolled in the army of the Confederate States of America by
Col. Gideon W. Thompson. I was eighteen, and for some little time had been
assisting Col. Hays in recruiting a regiment around my old home.
It was within a day or two after the surrender of Buell at Independence that I
was elected as first lieutenant in Capt. Jarrette's company in Col. Upton B.
Hays' regiment, which was a part of the brigade of Gen. Joseph O. Shelby.
We took the oath, perhaps 300 of us, down on Luther Mason's farm, a few
miles from where I now write, where Col. Hays had encamped after
Millions of boys and men have read with rising hair the terrible "black oath"
which was supposed to have been taken by these brave fighters, but of
which they never heard, nor I, until I read it in books published long after the
When Col. Hays camped on the Cowherd, White, Howard and Younger
farms, Quantrell had been left to guard the approaches to Kansas City, and
to prevent the escape to that point of news from the scattered Confederate
commands which were recruiting in western Missouri. At the same time he
was obtaining from the Chicago and St. Louis papers and other sources,
information about the northern armies, which was conveyed by couriers to
Confederate officers in the south, and he kept concealed along the Missouri
river skiffs and ferry boats to enable the Confederate officers, recruiting
north of the river, to have free access to the south.
The night that I was enlisted, I was sent by Col. Hays to meet Cols. Cockrell,
Coffee, Tracy, Jackman and Hunter, who, with the remnants of regiments
that had been shattered in various battles through the south, were headed
toward Col. Hays' command.
It was Col. Hays' plan for them to join him the fifteenth, and after a day's
rest, the entire command would attack Kansas City, and, among other
advantages resulting from victory there, secure possession of Weller's
Boone Muir and myself met Coffee and the rest below Rose Hill, on Grand
River. Col. Cockrell, whose home was in Johnson county, had gone by a
different route, hoping to secure new recruits among his neighbors, and, as
senior colonel, had directed the rest of the command to encamp the next
evening at Lone Jack, a little village in the southeastern portion of Jackson
county, so called from a solitary big black jack tree that rose from an open
field nearly a mile from any other timber.
At noon of Aug. 15, Muir and I had been in the saddle twenty-four to thirty
hours, and I threw myself on the blue grass to sleep.
Col. Hays, however, was still anxious to have the other command join him,
he having plenty of forage, and being well equipped with ammunition as the
result of the capture of Independence a few days before. Accordingly I was
shortly awakened to accompany him to Lone Jack, where he would
personally make known the situation to the other colonels.
Meantime, however, Major Emory L. Foster, in command at Lexington, had
hurried out to find Quantrell, if possible, and avenge Independence. Foster
had nearly 1,000 cavalrymen, and two pieces of Rabb's Indiana battery that
had already made for itself a name for hard fighting. He did not dream of the
presence of Cockrell and his command until he stumbled upon them in Lone
At nightfall, the Indiana battery opened on Lone Jack, and the Confederate
commands were cut in two. Coffee retreating to the south, while Cockrell
withdrew to the west, and when Col. Hays and I arrived, had his men drawn
up in line of battle, while the officers were holding a council in his quarters.
"Come in, Col. Hays," exclaimed Col. Cockrell. "We just sent a runner out to
look you up. We want to attack Foster and bear him in the morning. He will
just be a nice breakfast spell."
Col. Hays sent me back to bring up his command but on second thought
"No, lieutenant, I'll go too."
On the way back he asked me what I thought about Foster being a
"I think he'll be rather tough meat for breakfast," I replied. "He might be all
right for dinner."
But Cockrell and Foster were neighbors in Johnson county, and Cockrell did
not have as good an idea of Foster's fighting qualities that night as he did
twenty-four hours later.
The fight started at daybreak, hit or miss, and accidental gunshot giving
Foster's men the alarm. For five hours it waged, most of the time across the
village street, not more than sixty feet wide, and during those five hours
every recruit there felt the force of Gen. Sherman's characterization---"War
Jackman, with a party of thirty seasoned men, charge the Indiana guns, and
captured them, but Major Foster led a gallant charge against the invaders,
and recaptured the pieces. We were out of ammunition, and were helpless,
had the fight been pressed.
Riding to the still house where we had left the wagon munitions we had taken
a few days before at Independence, I obtained a fresh supply and started for
the action on the gallop.
Of that mad ride into the camp I remember little except that I had my horse
going at full tilt before I came into the line of fire. Although the enemy was
within 150 yards, I was not wounded. They did mark my clothes in one or
two places, however.
Major Foster, in a letter to Judge George M. Bennett of Minneapolis, said:
"During the progress of the fight my attention was called to a young
Confederate riding in front of the Confederate line, distributing ammunition
to the men from what seemed to be a 'splint basket.' He rode along under a
most galling fire from our side the entire length of the Confederate line, and
when he had at last disappeared, our boys recognized his gallantry in ringing
cheers. I was told by some of our men from the western border of the state
that they recognized the daring young rider as Cole Younger. About 9:30 a.
m. I was shot down. The wounded of both forces were gathered up and were
placed in houses. My brother and I, both supposed to be mortally wounded,
were in the same bed. About an hour after the Confederates left the field, the
ranking officer who took command when I became unconscious, gathered
his men together and returned to Lexington. Soon after the Confederates
returned. The first man who entered my room was a guerrilla, followed by a
dozen or more men who seemed to obey him. He was personally known to
me and had been my enemy from before the war. He said he and his men
had just shot a lieutenant of a Cass county company whom they found
wounded and that he would shoot me and my brother. While he was standing
over us, threatening us with his drawn piston, the young man I had seen
distributing ammunition along in front of the Confederate line rushed into the
room from the west door and seizing the fellow, thrust him out of the room.
Several Confederates followed the young Confederate into the room, and I
heard them call him Cole Younger. He (Younger) sent for Col. Cockrell (in
command of the Confederate forces) and stated the case to him. He also
called the young man Cole Younger and directed him to guard the house,
which he did. My brother had with him about $300, and I had abut $700. This
money and our revolvers were, with the knowledge and approval of Cole
Younger, placed in safe hands, and were finally delivered to my mother in
Warrensburg, MO. Cole Younger was then certainly a high type of manhood,
and every inch a soldier, who risked his own life to protect that of wounded
and disabled enemies. I believe he still retains those qualities and would
prove himself as good a citizen as we have among us if set free, and would
fight for the Stars and Stripes as fearlessly as he did for the Southern flag. I
have never seen him since the battle of Lone Jack. I know much of the
conditions and circumstances under which the Youngers were placed after
the war, and knowing this, I have great sympathy for them. Many men, now
prominent and useful citizens of Missouri, were, like the Youngers, unable to
return to their homes until some fortunate accident through them with men
they had known before the war, who had influence enough to make easy
their return to peace and usefulness. If this had occurred to the Youngers,
they would have had good homes in Missouri."
It is to Major Foster's surprise of the command at Lone Jack that Kansas
City owes its escape from being the scene of a hard battle August 17, 1862.
Quantrell was not in the fight at Lone Jack at all, but Jarrette and Gregg did
come up with some of Quantrell's men just at the end and were in the chase
back towards Lexington.
In proportion to the number of men engaged, Lone Jack was one of the
hardest fights of the war. That night there were 136 dead and 550 wounded
on the battlefield.
The Story of Cole Younger - by Himself; 1903