Keep the Flag to the Front - Part 3
Stories From the Front Lines
At our fireside sad and lonely
Often will the bosom swell
At remembrance of the story
How our noble Willie fell;
How he strove to bear our banner
Through the thickest of the fight,
And uphold our country's honor,
In the strength of manhood's might.
--"The Vacant Chair,"
words by Henry S. Washburn,
music by George F. Root, 1861
Battle of Wilson's Creek, 1861
Missouri's loyalty to the Union was of concern to the federal government in early 1861. The state's location on the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, as well as its manpower and resources, made it desirable to both North and South. Although Missouri allowed slavery, its population was split and preferred neutrality.
Forces clashed on August 10, 1861, along Wilson's Creek near Springfield, Missouri. The Confederacy won the battle, then marched north to the Missouri River at Lexington. But the Confederates had too small a force to maintain a military presence in Missouri, and eventually they withdrew into Arkansas. This first major battle west of the Mississippi included the First and Second Kansas Infantries.
For more information on the battle, view the National Park Service's Wilson's Creek web page.
The 90 Day Regiment
With great hope that the war would be short, many regiments at the beginning of the Civil War signed up for just 90 days. This included the Second Kansas Infantry, which saw skirmishing along the Kansas-Missouri border before the Battle at Wilson's Creek.
Company H of the Second Kansas was recruited at Emporia. Before leaving for Lawrence to organize the full regiment, the company was presented with this flag (left), made by several ladies in the town.
The day before they departed for Lawrence a beautiful flag was presented to them by the women of Emporia, one of whom delivered a patriotic address as she tendered it to the standard bearer. Father Fairchild, a pioneer Methodist minister, spoke with eloquence and deep feeling.
--William E. Connelley, The Life of Preston B. Plumb
Flag presentation ceremonies were scenes repeated in towns across the divided country. These flags were ties to communities and friends and families the soldiers were leaving behind.
This flag (right) was carried by the Second Kansas at Wilson's Creek. Color bearer Corporal Thomas Miller was mortally wounded while carrying it. Both the flag and its staff have bullet damage from the battle. Afterwards, Brigadier General John C. Fremont ordered the battle honor "Springfield" to be placed on flags of units that fought along Wilson's Creek (a battle honor is the name of the battle where a unit fought, usually painted on its flag).
The flag's return to Emporia inspired maker Anna Watson Randolph to write, "We sobbed and cried aloud. It was our first experience of the horrors of war."
First Kansas Infantry
The first to answer the call for volunteers in Kansas, members of the First Kansas Infantry served throughout the war, including the Battle of Wilson's Creek. Their service took them as far from home as Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana.
In the museum collections is a flag associated with Company D of the First Kansas Infantry, local militia raised in Lawrence and known as both the Stubbs and Oread Guards. These militia units existed prior to the war and took part in some of the skirmishes during the territorial period.
Before and during the Civil War there was activity across the Kansas-Missouri border that included the "liberation" of property from homes and individuals. If you were a Kansan involved in these activities, you were a jayhawker. If you were a Missourian, you were a bushwhacker.
One of the best known Kansas Jayhawkers was Charles R. "Doc" Jennison. He and his men are so well known for "liberating" horses from Missouri that the bloodline of Kansas horses was humorously described as "out of Missouri, by Jennison."
Jennison was quick to raise troops at the outbreak of the Civil War, and many of his followers joined the army with him. They formed a part of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry, which earned the nickname "Jennison's Jayhawkers." Company H of the Seventh carried this guidon (bottom, left).
Because the jayhawkers raided both Union and Confederate supporters, the Union Army decided early in the war that the jayhawkers should be kept out of Missouri. They spent much of the war in Mississippi.
By mid-1863 Jennison had resigned as colonel of the Seventh Kansas. But he was involved in raising another regiment, the Fifteenth, which was needed for service along the Kansas-Missouri border.
Jennison became the colonel of the new regiment, which saw action during Price's Raid across Missouri in late 1864, including the October battles in the Kansas City area. The Fifteenth's regimental guidon is pictured at the top of this page. View a map of battles fought by the Fifteenth.
Keep the Flag to the Front: Battle Flags of Kansas is an online exhibit developed by the Kansas Museum of History.
- The Civil War, 1861-1865
- Rally 'Round the Flag
- Stories From the Front Lines
- The "Colored" Soldiers
- On the Border
- The Confederacy
- Save the Flags!
- Glossary and Explanation of Flag Types
Contact us at KansasMuseum@kshs.org