The Battle of the Little Blue River
— "They fought us on the blue grass ridges..." Pvt. James H. Campbell, 14th Mo. Confederate Cavalry —
By 11 a.m. on Oct. 20, 1864, Col. Thomas Moonlight had made his first movement after the Little Blue crossing. Maj. Gen. James Blunt received permission from Maj. Gen. Samuel Curtis to engage the Confederate and made a rapid movement to this position, deploying the Federal line starting at the Independence-Lexington Road and stretching for about a mile to the south. Blue dismounted his troops, sending every fourth man to the rear to hold the horses. Maj. Gen. John S. Marmaduke and Brig. Gen. Joseph O. Shelby, also dismounted, were just 60 yards over the hill. A cannonade signaled the beginning of the last movement for the battle of the Little Blue. Almost simultaneously Confederate and Federal forces swept forward into the attack. On the Confederate left Marmaduke charged into Col. Charles R. Jennison's 15th Kansas, the 3rd Wisconsin and 2nd Colorado and Shelby on the right charged the 16th and 11th Kansas. Back and forth along these slopes the fighting was fierce and often hand to hand. After an hour Blunt had pushed the Confederates about a half mile east, but recognizing hat his flanks were about to be engulfed, Blunt ordered a withdrawal back to the heights. Gen. Curtis and staff now came upon the battle and immediately shifted forward Col. W. D. McClain's artillery, U.S.A., and 2 cannons from the 11th Kansas to a recently ploughed field, leaving them exposed to Rebel sharpshooters. Maj. R. H. Hunt, chief of artillery, U.S.A., shifted 2 more 11th Kansas cannons in support. They opened fire on the Confederates and drove them back, but exposed their left flank. The Confederates increased pressure on the Federal line and further exposed the Federal left flank. Shelby sent Col. Sidney Jackman on the attack. May. Hunt, U.S.A., seeing the attack forming, searched for help and sent for the 11th Kansas Cavalry who were beginning to pull back to Independence.
At about 3 p.m. the fight here had been going on for 4 hours. Gen. Curtis understood that he could not hold Gen. Sterling Price un Federal help could arrive from the east and so he returned to Independence, taking the ammunition wagons with him. Blunt was glad to see him go. Sometime during this fight, Moonlight realized his troops were nearly out of ammunition, but still holding them in line began the troops singing "Rally 'Round the Flag" in order to bolster their courage. Jennison, with the 15th Kansas, 3rd Wisconsin, and Barker's Artillery, was holding back Marmaduke on the right in a series of charges and counter charges from rock wall to rack wall, ravine to ravine.
Blunt also realized he must begin his retreat to Independence or face surrender. Forming one line while a second took up a new position, they leap-frogged line this and made stands at the Saunders and Massey farms. Blunt took up his last line of defense on the eastern edge of Independence.
"The Battle continued in Independence on oct. 22, 1864, 6 miles west, and then on to the Battle of the Big Blue at 63rd and Manchester."
Lawson Moore House 20309 E. Blue Mills Rd. (private residence)
This home was built in 1856 by Lawson Moore, a prosperous salve owner. In August of 1863 following Order No. 11 Mrs. Moore fled with her children, the oldest 19, the youngest 18 months, to Clay County, never to return. The house had survived several fires and was empty at the time of the battle. On the day of the battle it would serve as the rallying point for Shelby's command. It was here that he took time to care for this wounded, utilizing the Moore house as a hospital. Surviving accounts would indicate that buried on the property is a mass grave of 18 Confederate soldiers and in a separate location 6 to 8 officers. It is from the draw behind this property that Shelby launched his final attack of the day.
"About two and one half miles from where the first attack was made, we saw the Second Colorado battery of six fine Parrott guns crossing a field on out right as we were retreating. The rebel advance was within 400 to 500 yards of the battery. Quick work must be done to save the guns, worth a thousand men to us. Colonel Moonlight commanding our brigade came galloping down the line to my company. We were the rear guard. He ordered me to countermarch and charge the enemy with my eighty-eight men in column of eight front. We charged down the road, passing the Little Blue church, straight for the enemy. I saw ahead of me a brick house, just where the road turned from a northerly course straight east, a stone fence dead head of us, and a brick house and stone fence on the right. The rebel cavalry fell back, but a line of infantry occupied the house and were down behind the fence. About 150 yards south of the house between us and the enemy, was a hollow that for a moment or two kept us out of sight and range of their guns.
"As we reached the brow on the hill, a thought flashed through my mind that the first line, in which I was riding, with seven soldiers to my left, would be shot as soon as we came in sight. I clutched the pommel of my saddle and threw myself almost flat on the horse. the volley of bullets came, as I expected. I felt my horse going down, swung my feet clear of the stirrups, and fell on my horse's neck, unhurt. Geo. W. Edwards, who fired the first shot when we were charging through Lexington the day before, fell on my back, dead. My men saw me fall and thought I was killed. They retreated back into the hollow. I jumped up and ran after them, a perfect hailstorm of bullets buzzing past me. i ordered the men to dismount. every man left his horse in the road. We then jumped the fence into an orchard and charged the brick house, and took it, driving the enemy out; then charged the stone fence and took that. At this moment I heard the yells of 400 to 500 men. Maj. J. Nelson Smith with the first and third battalions of the Second Colorado cavalry, was charging the enemy to save us, and right before us this gallant officer fell dead at the head of his command. I had a chance now to fall back, and found my horses in the hollow where I had left them. The animals showed "horse sense" enough to remain where they were safe from the bullets. This little diversion, costly to my company, saved the Colorado battery."
Captain Henry E. Palmer, Company A, 11th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry