Lone Jack August 15th & 16th 1862

About this time in 1862, a military confrontation developed between the Confederate and Union forces in western Missouri. The Union forces consisted of Major Emory S. Foster and detachments from five companies of the Seventh Missouri Volunteer Cavalry, which included details from three companies of the Sixth Cavalry, Missouri State Militia; two companies of the Eighth Cavalry, Missouri State Militia; one company of the Seventh Cavalry, Missouri State Militia; three companies of Colonel Newgent’s Second Battalion Cavalry, Missouri State Militia; and a section of the Third Indiana Battery (with two six-pounders), under Lieutenant J. S. Develin. In all, Foster’s Union force consisted of some 806 men. In addition, Colonel FitzHenry Warren, First Iowa Cavalry, was ordered to join Foster at Lone Jack, Missouri, by no later than the morning of August 16. General James Blunt’s force from Kansas was also expected to join up with Foster, but this was uncertain. In the event, neither of the latter two forces arrived at Lone Jack in time to aid Foster at the Battle of Lone Jack. Warren mistakenly took the wrong road to the town and arrived after the battle. No field officers (rank of major and above) accompanied the force, Foster said, because of “jealousy in regard to rank.”

The Confederate command was composed of Colonel John T. Coffey, with 1,200 men, and Colonel Vard Cockrell, with the regiments of Colonels Tom Hunter, Dick Hancock, John C. Tracy, Gideon W. Thompson, Upton Hays, Bohannon, and S. D. Jackman, besides a smattering of Quantrill’s partisans. The Confederates were believed by the Union army to have 4,000 men.

On the morning of August 15, Foster set out with his army toward Lone Jack, arriving at that town at 9:00 P.M. after a hard and hot thirty-five-mile march. Foster said he attacked the enemy concentrated near the town and “routed” them. After the fight, Foster arrested Lieutenant Develin for “being drunk” during the skirmish. Then, Foster settled down for the night, with his men in line, hopefully awaiting reinforcements. Though outnumbered, he had a two-gun battery to augment his well-armed infantry and wielded a small but quite formidable force. In addition, Foster had a bois d’arc hedge on two sides of his position, which would limit the effectiveness of Confederate charges from those directions and inhibit attempts to flank him. A deep stream, moreover, was under his control to his rear, always a considerable obstacle for an enemy. His scouts now determined that he was facing up to 3,000 rebels.

Once the attack opened, on August 16, the Confederates found themselves weakened by their lack of artillery. Meanwhile, the Union battery sprayed the compact Southern lines with deadly canister (or grape shot) and musket fire, upsetting their initial attack. The Confederates now concentrated on disabling the Union’s artillery component, their principal aggravation. Soon, they shot the horses hitched to the artillery pieces and made an assault on the men protecting the guns. In this encounter, Foster and sixty men led a desperate Union counterattack to protect the guns and to drag them to safety. Only eleven men reached the guns, all of them wounded, but they managed to drag the pieces to the rear. Foster was shot in the charge, and eventually, the weapons were abandoned, one being spiked. Finally, after receiving 25 percent casualties and losing another forty-four men missing, the crippled Union force, now led by Captain Milton H. Brawner, marched back to their base at Lexington, “unmolested” their report said, reaching that town about 7:00 P.M. Brawner believed the Confederates had lost 118 killed. More of Quantrill’s guerrillas arrived at the battlefield as reinforcements, but not until the defeated Brawner was on the road to Lexington.

After the battle of Lone Jack and before he went south to join the Southern army, Upton Hays turned over the hated Federal Lieutenant Levi Copeland of Newgent’s regiment to Quantrill. He had been captured at the Battle of Lone Jack and was wanted by the guerrillas. William Gregg, Quantrill’s third lieutenant, said that Copeland had “murdered numerous old men, among them two of the Longacres of Johnson County.” Copeland was taken to Quantrill’s camp, four miles northeast of Lee’s Summit, and put under guard. One night, two men known to Quantrill, Charles Cowherd (the owner of the farm where Quantrill and Hays were staying) and William Howard, brought the guerrilla chief a copy of the St. Louis Republican. Gregg waited his turn while Quantrill read the paper, seemingly with great interest. Then, Gregg noted a dramatic change in Quantrill’s expression. He dropped the newspaper and pulled a small piece of paper from his pocket and scribbled a few words on it. He folded the paper and handed it to Gregg. “Give this to [Andy] Blunt,” he said. Quantrill told Gregg that the article referred to the execution of guerrilla Perry Hoy. Before he carried the note to Blunt, Gregg opened it and read it. It said, “Take Lieut. Copeland out and shoot him, get two prisoners and shoot them.” Now, as should have been expected, the extermination policy was working both ways.

©Donald L. Gilmore, Pelican Publishing 2006 & quantrillsguerrillas.com "Permission should be requested and agreed to before using this copyrighted essay and or image."  The images below are on left Col. J. T. Coffee, on the right is Major E. Foster


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