A walk through historic Woodlawn Cemetery Sunday will shed light on those dark, oppressive days of hardships and wretchedness in Independence during the Civil War under the infamous Order No. 11.
Regardless of one’s allegiance, the decree signed by Union Gen. Thomas Ewing Jr. on Aug. 25, 1863, forced the evacuation of all residents from rural areas in four western Missouri counties – including Jackson. Those who could prove their loyalty to the Union were allowed to stay in the affected area. However, they were forced to vacate their farms and move to communities within a mile of a military outpost. Independence was one of those outposts.
To discover what life in the “Queen City of the Trails” was like during these turbulent times, the community is invited to participate in “Ghosts of Order No. 11” and listen as re-enactors at 10 different grave sites share personal stories about their experiences during Order No. 11. The fundraising event is an educational program of the Friends of National Frontier Trails Museum.
You’ll hear Drusilla Stayton Saunder, portrayed by Nicole Gaulden, tell how her home on R.D. Mize Road was saved from destruction because of an act of kindness to a wounded Union officer. The house is still standing.
Then there’s Barbara Hughes’ vignette about Laura Harris Flannery Bridges. Panic-stricken by Order No. 11, she and 62 other women walked to Texas to join the menfolk in the Confederate army there.
“So I will tell (Laura’s) experiences with marauders, with the mountains, with dying of thirst and meeting her husband in Texas (with) the other men,” Barbara says in an interview at the Museum, along with Mike Calvert and Kathy Vest.
Other re-enactors and their characters:
Crystal Campbell as Mary Henley, Sam Savona as Albert Oldham, Kara Adkinson as Sarah Ann Franklin Hudspeth, Holly Lynch as Margaret Chiles, Sara Poff as Sarah Kate Kritser Burrus, Ivan Bird as W.S. Bone, Nancy Ehrlich as Miranda Oldham Peacock, Lester Williamson as a Confederate soldier on the run and Ralph Monoco as George Caleb Bingham.
Back by popular demand, this is the third consecutive year for the cemetery walks, says Kathy, president of the Friends board.
Unlike last year’s cemetery walk featuring prominent Independence people, this year’s event commemorates the 150th anniversary of Order No. 11. It features common people who were “directly and personally affected” by the order, says Mike, a re-enactor and museum board member who presides over the Civil War Roundtable of Western Missouri.
Mike, who researched this year’s cast of characters, says the walk is “trying to tell their story of that day and that period of time. We are not telling a whole personal story, but we are having each of those individuals relate what happened to them under Order No. 11.”
Says Kathy: “It’s not a biography ... but a vignette of their experiences during Order No. 11.”
Partnering this year with the Friends is D.W. Newcomer. The funeral home – just north of Woodland Cemetery – is allowing attendees to use its parking lot free of charge. Parking also is available on side streets, where permitted. In addition, Newcomer’s is offering attendees refreshments and a place to sit while waiting for their particular tour to begin.
Tickets can be purchased on the day of the event in Newcomer’s parking lot. Entrance to Woodlawn is through the main gate across from Ruby Street. The cost is $10 for adults and $5 for students (ages 8-18).
Beginning at 2 p.m., two groups of 20 people will be entering the city-owned cemetery every 10 minutes with a guide. The last tour begins at 4 p.m. To speed up the tour, “We are going to go in two different directions, meet in the center and then come back,” Kathy says, noting each vignette lasts three to five minutes.
Beware cemetery walkers!
As you enter Woodlawn, you will encounter Jim Beckner portraying Union Capt. Jacob Rees. Standing next to Rees are his provost guard, who will ask you to state your loyalty to the Union. Assigned to the 11th Kansas Calvary and stationed in Independence, Rees was responsible for forcing people out of their Jackson County homes, as well as making sure they had either left the county or signed loyalty papers and had relocated elsewhere, Mike explains.
There is also another reason for Rees being at the cemetery entrance. Not knowing what people knew about Order No. 11 or what it meant, Mike says Rees will be there “as the interpreter of the reason why these people (buried) there have stories (to tell). It’s just a fun way to give the background of what is going on.”
The tour ends with Ralph Monoco, attorney, historian and re-enactor, depicting noted Missouri artist George Caleb Bingham’s renowned “Order No. 11” painting.
“He’s going to be talking about painting it, Mike says, with this in mind: “Here is the painting ... and here are the stories of real people that inspired that painting. So this painting is not the figment of someone’s imagination. It’s based upon fact. What you see in that (painting) where people were thrown out of their houses and fires burning in the distance is what these people lived through. This is what they saw; this is what they tell. It kind of brings you full circle.”
What would Mike like to see attendees take home from the tour?
“I want people to understand what a hardship Order No. 11 caused. ...I want people to understand that Order No. 11 affected every person in the county, whether you were Union or (Confederate). ...Every person got uprooted. They didn’t discern between loyal or rebel. They just burnt.”
For more information, call Kathy Vest at 220-0218.
Retired community news reporter Frank Haight Jr. writes this column for The Examiner. You can leave a message for him at 816-350-6363.