Lone Jack: A Trans-Mississippi Sesquicentennial Event

While we “easterners” are focused on Manassas, and being drawn towards events in Maryland, as summer draws to a close, out in the far west folks are observing other, perhaps lesser known, Civil War events. While “doing my rounds” on the internet feeds, I stumbled across a page detailing a commemoration of the Battle of Lone Jack, taking place this weekend.

The actual battle of Lone Jack took place on August 15-16, 1862 – concluding 150 years ago today. And I have reason to mention that battle here, due to a family connection. For those unfamiliar, the Lone Jack Historical Society has information on the battle. And there is a short summary at the CWSAC listing.

Normally I wouldn’t bore folks with mention of another reenactment, as most readers will pull details from other web sites catering to such. But this event promises a unique approach. Right off the bat, I noticed that organizers were making a stand in regard to the units represented. For instance, instead of welcoming any and all artillery batteries to participate, they are only allowing two mountain howitzers – which is historically accurate. The organizers also plan to hold the infantry and cavalry to similar standards. They plan to avoid massed rows of tents and plumed cavaliers.

The Kansas City Star reported the unique approach taken for this event:

Sesquicentennial re-enactments are being held all over the country where blue and gray threw lead, from Shiloh, Tenn., to Manassas, Va. (the second there), to Sharpsburg, Md. But the planners in Lone Jack wanted to do something different. Something that would give a viewer a wider sense of what happened, beyond the batteries of howitzers belching smoke, the moving ranks of men following old banners and the rushing of horses back and forth in simulated cavalry charges.

They decided this re-creation would be civilian-focused.

For three hours on Saturday night only, more than 250 people will become civilians as well as soldiers living in seven scenes. Candle- or oil lamp-lit vignettes will unfold in short performances before the audience.

“Actors will play to the audience but not engage with them,” Hadley says.

And every five minutes or so, Lucinda Cave will die in a front bedroom at the “Cave House” hotel.

She and her children tried to flee the carnage of bullets, according to later accounts. Abandoning their home/business when it caught fire, they found cover in the brush. The story goes that she rose to stop a little one from running into the open and a slug slammed into her chest. She died days later of massive infection.

Other scenes will unfurl in the blacksmith shop, the smokehouse, the cornfield. Everything will show what the townspeople lived through. “A lot of it will be grim,” Hadley says, “especially when they see families looking for their dead among the rows of corpses.”

The event runs through the 18th and 19th. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. If anyone out that way attends, please feel free to offer up any observations and comments. I’m interested to see how this plays out!

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