William C. Quantrill, a former Kansas school teacher, headed a guerilla army which had committed many outrages around Lawrence and Kansas City, one being the Lawrence Massacre. Quantrill received a commission of Colonel, supposedly either from General Sterling Price or the Confederate Governor of Mississippi. On his route to Texas to spend the winterof 1863 he heard of the fort at Baxter Springs and on October 6th, made a surprise attack upon the fort with approximately 300 men.
Two days previous to this, Lieutenant James B. Pond had arrived at the fort bringing with him a mountain howitzer and part of his Company C, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, and took command of the post. In addition, there were at the garrison, one company of the Second Kansas Colored Infantry commanded by Lieutenant Cook, and Company D, Third Wisconsin Cavalry previously commanded by Lieutenant John Crites who had been called to Fort [???].
Descriptions of the fort vary as to size and the existence of cabin ba[???] and an 18 foot square blockhouse. The fort was log and earth embankments about 4 feet high. The west wall of the enclosure had been torn o[???] before the attack by order of Lieutenant Pond who found the camp [???] for all the troops. Pond's tent was two hundred yards west of [???] the men were extending the embankments to enclose it. The [???] was about two hundred feet south of the fort on the north [???] stream near the large spring. Pond had placed the howitzer [???] north wall of the fort.
Pond had diminished his force that morning by sending out a party of sixty men to forage in the country, leaving about seventy to ninety-five men at the fort, half of whom were off-duty because of illness.
The garrison was wholly unprepared for an attack. Pond was in his tent separated from troops who were eating their lunches under an arbor near the spring. Reacting to the attack, Lieutenant Pond ordered his men into the fort. Many of them had to break through the enemy's ranks which were between the fort and dining quarters. The fort was filled with rebel and union troops. Quickly, the troops succeeded in routing the rebels from the camp. With Pond operating his twelve-pound howitzer and the troops keeping up a rapid fire from the fort, the guerillas soon retreated to the shelter of the the trees and stream near the fort. The enemy seemed unaware of the small number of men at the camp. The casualties reported by Pond were nine killed and sixteen wounded. Pond gave great credit to the 2nd Kansas Colored for their part in repulsing the attack. Most of the wounded were from their regiment.
To learn more about the attack on Fort Blair and the subsequent Baxter Springs Massacre, visit the Baxter Springs Heritage Center one block south.
The 2nd Kansas Colored Infantry, Company A, was mustered into the United States Service August 11, 1863, under officers Capt. Samuel Sanders and 1st Lt. Ralph Cook. After 1864, they were known as the 83rd United States Colored Infantry. They all fell under the command of Lt. James B. Pond of Company C, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, when he arrived at Fort Blair on October 4, 1863.
Lt. Cook was one of the few men kiled in the attack on Ft. Blair. The action in Baxter Springs was the first real test for these men of the Second Kansas. Following the attack, Pond praised the Second Kansas, saying they ..."fought the best of any men I ever saw. Not one would give up after they were wounded, but kept shooting as long as they could see a rebel. I think that if our northern pro-slavery friends could serve a few weeks with a colored regiment and witness the soldier-like appearance...all prejudice against them would be removed. ...I don't want to be without a company of colored if I can help it" The men of the Second Colored Infantry were the true heroes of the Battle [of] Ft. Blair, October 6, 1863.
Signage given in memory of Richard and Betty Jo Auman.