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Examiner
  • Ted Stillwell: The First Battle of Independence

  • Upton Hays was the grandson of Daniel Boone; he lived near Waldo and was a freighter on the Old Santa Fe Trail. Upton became a brilliant military officer for the South, and soon found himself in the First Battle of Independence on the Jackson County Square.

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  • Upton Hays was the grandson of Daniel Boone; he lived near Waldo and was a freighter on the Old Santa Fe Trail. Upton became a brilliant military officer for the South, and soon found himself in the First Battle of Independence on the Jackson County Square.
    Independence, the Paradise of the Frontier, had become a holocaust. The once thriving prairie schooner depot, which was Southern to its very core, was now occupied and converted to a federal military post. Consequently, its inhabitants were seething in silent indignation. Col. James T. Buel of the Seventh Missouri Calvary commanded a force of nearly 500 Union soldiers who were camped in tents near Pleasant and Walnut streets on what is today known as the Campus. Buel’s headquarters were in the old Southern Bank building near the southwest corner of the Square.
    The federal officers had been using the old county jail on North Main as a prison since the beginning of hostilities under the leadership of Lt. Charles Meryhew. Prison conditions were so deplorable that it gained the reputation as one of the worst federal prisons. It was so crowded with men; no one could even lie down.
    Since a number of the Confederate prisoners were Bushwhackers who rode with William Quantrill, he called his guerrillas together and joined with Col. Upton Hays to capture Independence. Colonel Hays asked Quantrill to secure accurate information concerning Buell’s position in Independence and Cole Younger volunteered. The next morning, Cole, disguised as an old woman with a basket of vegetables on his arm, rode in on South Main Street and easily obtained the needed information while peddling veggies to the soldiers.
    In the early morning hours of Aug. 11, 1862, Quantrill and 25 of his men, plus 375 farm boys freshly recruited from the neighborhood, along with Upton Hays and other Confederate officers, took Independence by surprise. Quantrill and his men entered the town on North Spring Street, knocking out the pickets along the way and proceeding directly to Buel’s headquarters at the bank. The streets of Independence were soon filled with Bushwhackers and Confederate soldiers and considerable gunfire erupted for about an hour and a half.
    Some of the Bushwhackers headed straight for the old jail on North Main. The firing had no sooner begun on the jail when its defenders fled westward, opening the way for the great jail break, as the imprisoned Bushwhackers were set free to join in the fracas. In the meantime, Col. John T. Hughes, a regular Confederate officer, attacked the Federal troops at the tent camp with the main body of Confederate recruits. The surprised Union soldiers of the pasture withdrew behind a stone wall as the gunfire erupted. Some of the Federal boys fought bravely that morning, while many others fled toward Kansas City.
    About 9 o’clock that morning, the Colonel in the bank was in serious trouble. The building was completely riddled with bullet holes, every pane of glass was broken, the walls and floors covered with spent bullets. Quantrill finally set fire to a small building attached to the east side of the bank, effectively forcing Buel and his men out into the street where they had no choice but to surrender.
    Page 2 of 2 - When the gunfire finally ceased, the dead and wounded were lying from one end of town to the other. The women and children from nearby homes tried to help those they could.
    The Federals lost 25 dead and 74 wounded. Eleven of the wounded died later from those injuries. The Confederates and Bushwhackers left 23 dead men and nine mortally wounded. The winners cleaned out the town of weapons and carried away 20 or more wagon loads of arms, ammunition and camp plunder toward the south.
    Reference: “Civil War and Reconstruction in Independence, Missouri” by Donald R. Hale.
    To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to teddystillwell@yahoo.com or call him at 816-252-9909.
     

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