Wading through mud and blood

Mine Creek Battlefield near Mound City saw a clash between Confederate and Union troops in 1864, near the close of the Civil War.



August 2, 2021 - 9:35 AM

Register reporter Trevor Hoag strikes a pose next to a Civil War-era cannon at the Mine Creek Battlefield historic site. Courtesy photo

The ground was swampy and saturated the afternoon I wandered Mine Creek Battlefield near Mound City.

Though I cursed mud aloud, I soon realized how appropriate it was, as conditions were similar on Oct. 25, 1864, the day of the events in question.

Confederate General Sterling Price had set out to wreak havoc across eastern Kansas near the close of the Civil War, but things weren’t going as planned.

His forces were retreating south not far from the state line, losing battle after battle, and when their wagon supply train became stalled at Mine Creek crossing in Linn County, he’d have to fight again.

The entrance to the visitors’ center at the Mine Creek Battlefield historic site. Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

2,500 Union cavalrymen were bearing down on them on “the Butternuts” from behind, yet even with superior numbers of between 7,000-8,000, the situation soon became grim.

BY 10:30 that morning, despite the wet conditions, with horse hooves and wagon wheels getting constantly mired, both sides moved into position.

Confederate artillery opened fire first, with cannons belching black and red, and the Union followed suit, until blood and screams began to mix with the previous night’s rainfall.

The first Union troops, of the Tenth Missouri, started toward the Confederate line with bugles blaring, but froze in their tracks after realizing they were outnumbered nearly three to one.

General “Fred” Benteen, who later gained fame at Little Big Horn, rode out front, screaming at the men to advance while swinging his sword about wildly, but to no avail.

Troops behind the Tenth kept pushing, however, and soon the charge was reignited following a chain reaction down the Union line.

A memorial to the Confederate dead hides in the woods at the Mine Creek Battlefield historic site. Many Confederate soldiers were buried near the site of the battle.Photo by Trevor Hoag / Iola Register

ACCORDING to historian Arnold Scholfield, it was an absolute sight to behold.

“The Union soldiers are stirrup to stirrup. You’re seeing a blue mass come towards you,” he said. “And as it gets closer to you, the ground starts to shake and pulsate underneath your horses’ and mules’ feet.”

The Union, “they are in a massive formation, and they are charging down that hill, and it looks like rolling blue thunder,” Scholfield continued.

“And when it collides with the Confederate line, the force of the impact carries them through it like hot knives through butter.”

DESPITE superior numbers, most of the Confederates only got a single shot before they had to reload, which meant being overwhelmed by gunfire.