From the Battle of the Hemp Bales to Wakefield Farm, the Kentucky & Missouri Connection During the War.

Kentuckians, including some of my own ancestors, turned Missouri into a bloodied, killing-field during our War for Southern Independence. During the 1820s and 1830s many folks from Kentucky trekked into Missouri and settled in places like Lexington, Independence and Westport. The battle of Lexington also known as the “Battle of the Hemp Bales” took place upon the grounds of the home of a prominent Kentuckian, Oliver Anderson.

Due to the brutal incursions made into Missouri by the freebooters from Kansas before and during the war, hundreds of young men joined forces with Confederate partisan units to fight those abolitionist brutes. One of my distant Yager cousins served under William Clarke Quantrill and George Todd. We are both descendants of Nicholas Yager of Germany. He was a 1717 immigrant into Virginia who served as an indentured servant to Governor Spotswood in the area around Culpepper.

Judge James BarnesYager was raised and married in Washington County, Kentucky. Richard Francis “Dick” Yager/Yeager was his only son. After moving to Missouri, Judge Yager and Richard became freighters on the Santa Fe Trail only to be raided by Jennison’s gang. Thousands of dollars of supplies were stolen from the Yager home by these cut throats.

This robbery was the catalyst that drove Richard Yager to join forces with Quantrill. He captained small bands deep into Kansas to raid places that he was familiar with due to his former experience traveling upon the Santa Fe Trail.  On July 19, 1864, George Todd and Yager with a company of partisans attacked the Yanks at Arrowrock, Missouri. Here is an previously unpublished image of Lt. George Todd ©Cantey-Myers collection.                                                                        

Yager was shot in the head and left in a cornfield north of Arrowrock and cared for by Jennie Flannery/Flanery on Gilliam’s land. Two weeks later, the Yanks found Yager and murdered him. Jennie turned herself in to the Federal authorities in order to protect Gilliam. She was placed in jail, and Gilliam was saved from a possible execution.

Yager’s wife, Martha J. “Mattie” Muir, descended from the Kentucky Muirs. Mattie and her daughter Mollie along with some of her Muir relatives were jailed in Leavenworth, Kansas, before Yager was killed. Here is more evidence of the abuse our enemies meted out to the gentler sex of Missouri.

According to the Margaret Watts Hays letters at website www.wattshaysletters.com: “They say if they get Dick they will torture him four days and then burn him.” These violent threats kept the southern men fighting with determination.  Margaret was the wife of Confederate Upton Hays who was a descendant of Daniel Boone. She and her five children witnessed their home being burned by Yankee villains! Margaret was a first cousin to Yager as her mother and Richard’s mother were Berry sisters from Kentucky.

In 2007, no one had been successful on locating the gravesite for Richard Yager, but with good fortune I was led to his final gravesite, likely his third. We do not know for sure where he was originally buried, but in 1871 his body was removed to the Confederate/Self Cemetery in Kansas City at 71st and Troost Street.

By 1893, all the soldiers buried at the Confederate Cemetery were moved just across the street into Forest Hills Cemetery at 72nd/Gregory Street and Troost Street. This move included the 75 unknown Confederates who had died defending Westport, Missouri.

This data was detailed within an old D.A.R. book which contained a list of cemeteries. The book is entitled “Vital Historical Records of Jackson County, Missouri 1826-1876” by the Kansas City Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution. It only lists four actual names of soldiers buried in 1871 at the Confederate Soldiers’ Cemetery. These four names were: Upton Hays who had a marker at Forest Hills, Richard Yeager, William McGuire and Officer Jones from Arkansas. After this discovery, I placed an order for two V.A. markers, one for Yeager and one for McGuire. It is documented that Hays, Yeager and McGuire all rode with Quantrill, more research is needed to determine more about Officer Jones so in the future a V.A. marker can be placed at Forest Hills in his memory.

On Sunday, October 12, 2008 at 2 p.m. a memorial was held for the two newly marked graves under the beautiful U.D.C. monument and in honor of all Confederates buried at Forest Hills Cemetery. The names of many of the soldiers were called out and a gong struck in their honor. A well-known Kentuckian, General Jo Shelby’s name was announced. He also rests with several members of his family near to the base of the Confederate monument.

I read this eulogy by General Alpheus Baker, the “eagle orator of Alabama” as I believe it to be one of the most sublime every written about our southern soldiers:

“Pondering the past, I have sometimes looked up into the skies of a cloudless night, at the lights of glory with which God has chandeliered that dome. And I would see scattered here and there stars of the first magnitude: Sirius and Arcturus and Aldebaran, and others whose names I knew.  And to me they represented the leaders in the war. But beyond and back of them, and without which the heavens would have been bereft of their splendor, glittered an innumerable host of other stars which no astronomer has named. And there, streaming far across the skies was the milky way; a wide river of glory whose every wavelet is a nameless star.  And to me they represented the private soldiers, the unknown men, the nameless heroes; who, faithful to a soldier’s duty, for which they expected no pensions or honors or reward but the sublime consciousness of its discharge, fighting for the right as God gave them to see the right, bore up the stars and bars of blood-washed Dixie to disaster or to victory upon a thousand fields.

Is it not right that such men should never be forgotten?” We hope you enjoy this war vintage image of Richard Yager. 

© Nancy Hitt quantrillsguerrillas.com "Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay." 

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