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The Lone Jack Fight
ONCE there stood a lone blackjack tree, taller than its companions and larger than any near it. From this tree the town of Lone Jack, in the eastern portion of Jackson County, was named. On the afternoon of the 13th of August clouds were seen gathering there. These clouds were cavalrymen. Succoring recruits in every manner possible, and helping them on to rendezvous by roads, or lanes, or water courses, horsemen acquainted with the country kept riding continuously up and down. A company of these on the evening of the 15th were in the village of Lone Jack.
Major Emory L. Foster, doing active scouting duty in the region round about Lexington, had his headquarters in the town. The capture of Independence had been like a blow upon the cheek; he would avenge it. He knew how to fight. There was dash about him; he had enterprise. Prairie life had enlarged his vision and he did not see the war like a martinet; he felt within him the glow of generous ambition; he loved his uniform for the honor it had; he would see about that Independence business—about that Quantrell living there between the two Blues and raiding the West—about those gray recruiting folks riding up from the South—about the tales of ambuscades that were told eternally of Jackson County, and of all the toils spread for the unwary Jayhawkers. He had heard, too, of the85 company which halted a moment in Lone Jack as it passed through, and of course it was Quantrell.
It was six o’clock when the Confederates were there, and eight o’clock when the Federal colonel, Colonel Foster, marched in, leading nine hundred and eighty-five cavalrymen, with two pieces of Rabb’s Indiana battery—a battery much celebrated for tenacious gunners and accurate firing. Cockrell, who was in command, knew Foster well; the other Confederates knew nothing of him. He was there, however, and that was positive proof enough that he wanted to fight. Seven hundred Confederates—armed with shotguns, horse pistols, squirrel rifles, regulation guns, and what not—attacked nine hundred and eighty-five Federal cavalrymen in a town for a position, and armed with Spencer rifles and Colt’s revolvers, dragoon size. There was also the artillery. Lone Jack sat quietly in the green of emerald prairie, its orchards in fruit and its harvests goodly. On the west was timber, and in this timber a stream ran musically along. To the east the prairies stretched, their glass waves crested with sunshine. On the north there were groves in which birds abounded. In some even the murmuring of doves was heard, and an infinite tremor ran over all the leaves as the wind stirred the languid pulse of summer into fervor.
In the center of the town a large hotel made a strong fortification. The house from being a tavern,87 had come to be a redoubt. From the top the Stars and Stripes floated proudly—a tricolor that had upon it then more of sunshine than of blood. Later the three colors had become as four.
On the verge of the prairie nearest the town a hedge row stood as a line of infantry dressed for battle. It was plumed on the sides with tawny grass. The morning broke upon it and upon armed men crouching there, with a strange barred banner and with guns at trail. Here they waited, eager for the signal.
Joining Hays on the left was Cockrell and the detachments of Hays, Rathburn and Bohannon. Their arms were as varied as their uniforms. It was a duel they were going into and each man had the gun he could best handle. From the hedgerow, from the green growing corn, from the orchards and the groves, soldiers could not see much save the flag flying skyward on the redoubt on the Cave House.
At five o’clock a solitary gunshot aroused camp and garrison, and all the soldiers stood face to face with imminent death. No one knew thereafter how the fight commenced. It was Missourian against Missourian—neighbor against neighbor—the rival flags waved over each and the killing went on. This battle had about it a strange fascination. The combatants were not numerous, yet they fought as men seldom fight in detached bodies. The same fury extended to an army would have ended in annihilation. A tree88 was a fortification. A hillock was an ambush. The cornfields, from being green, became lurid. Dead men were in the groves. The cries of the wounded came in from the apple orchards. All the houses in the town were garrisoned. It was daylight upon the prairies, yet there were lights in the windows—the light of musket flashes.
There is not much to say about the fight in the way of description. The Federals were in Lone Jack; the Confederates had to get them out. House fighting and street fighting are always desperate. The hotel became a hospital, later a holocaust, and over all rose and shone a blessed sun while the airy fingers of the breeze ruffled the oak leaves and tuned the swaying branches to the sound of a psalm.
The graycoats crept nearer. On east, west, north or south. Hays, Cockrell, Tracy, Jackman, Rathburn or Hunter gained ground. Farmer lads in their first battle began gawkies and ended grenadiers. Old plug hats rose and fell as the red fight ebbed and flowed; the shotgun’s heavy boom made clearer still the rifle’s sharp crack. An hour passed, the struggle had lasted since daylight.
Foster fought his men splendidly. Wounded once, he did not make complaint; wounded again, he kept his place; wounded a third time he stood with his men until courage and endurance only prolonged a sacrifice. Once Haller, commanding thirty of Quantrell’s89 old men, swept up to the guns and over them, the play of their revolvers being............
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