Civil War Exhibit
The Civil War in Bates County, Missouri
Every family living in Bates County during the Civil War (1861-1865) has a story. Descendants of these people carry family memories in their hearts. Bates County was Ground Zero for one of the most heinous military orders ever issued against the civilian population. The infamous Order No. 11 forced the depopulation of counties in western Missouri with Bates County being the only one to be completely emptied. Everyone forced to leave. Every town, every farm, almost every building was torched. Bates County lay in the heart of the Burnt District. Union General Thomas Ewing issued the order on August 25, 1863 to exact revenge on Missouri for the frustration the Federals endured in being unable to halt Guerrilla activities and Quantrill's August 21st raid on Lawrence sealed the fate of the people along the Border. Bates County was a no-man's-land. Although attempts to conduct County business were made, for three years there was no official business for the county of Bates. Only about 30% of the population returned and most of those did not come back until the spring of 1866. When they returned, they came home to nothing...except a tax bill. Each returning refugee owed three years back taxes and money was in very short supply. Much of the land was reverted back to the government and sold to eager buyers. Some were looking to own fertile farm land while others were more interested in the rich coal deposits that lay just underground. The cultural fabric of the county was forever changed.
Prior to the official declaration of War, Bates County had been in the bullseye of many Kansas men. In 1859 the local court ordered the Sheriff to create a Home Guard to protect the people from the raiding Kansans. Raids back and forth across the Missouri-Kansas border were common. And so it was... Men dragged from their homes in the middle of the night - shot - hung - cabins burned. Riders from Kansas were loathed and feared. Back and forth it went. Kansas jayhawkers and Missouri bushwhackers. Kansas bled and Missouri burned. Civil War was finally declared and the hell on the border began in earnest. Terror escalated. Neighbor turned again neighbor. Suspicion ruled the day. Trusting the wrong person could 'get you dead' in a hurry. The very fabric of civilization was unraveling...
1861-62 were deadly years in Bates County. Kansas Senator & General Jim Lane marched through the county in 1861 and partially burned the towns of West Point, Butler and Papinville. Southerner Sidney Jackman lived just outside Papinville. He joined the Confederate Army (Colonel) and served as a liason to the Partisan Guerrillas in the area. Union man John Newberry became Captain of the Enrolled Missouri Militia in Butler. The Union army occupied Butler and the guerrilla activity kept them busy. In December 1861 a man named Slater was executed, on the west side of the Butler Square, for having a pistol on his person. In May 1862, a Federal foraging party was attacked and men were killed. It's known as the Miami Creek Massacre. The Union army pulled-out of Butler. Many Bates County southern men fought at the Battle of Lone Jack in August and in October 1862 the first battle between African-American soldiers and guerrillas was fought at the Battle of Island Mound.
The Civil War history of Bates County is unlike anywhere else. The people, the places, and the events all are remembered. Their sacrifices are honored. Their stories are told. May we never forget the dark days of the Civil War.