By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer
BAXTER SPRINGS, Kan. —
Civil War enthusiasts gathered Saturday to take part in a documentary re-creating the 1863 Civil War battle near modern-day Baxter Springs.
The 15-minute film, “Battle of Baxter Springs,” is a product of the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and will be released for the sesquicentennial of the battle, which will take place Oct. 4-6, said local historian Larry O’Neal.
“This has been in planning for two years now,” O’Neal said. “We secured a grant from Scout Pictures and from Freedom Frontier for the documentary that we will use to help bring alive the history that we have here locally.”
The documentary tells the story of the 2nd Kansas Colored’s defense of a frontier Union outpost against the partisan forces of William Quantrill. The fort was defended by about 100 soldiers against Quantrill’s larger group, and they managed to hold out against the attack on Oct. 6, 1863.
“The 2nd Colored infantry’s bravery at the fort is a story worth being told,” O’Neal said.
After splitting his men into different units, Quantrill’s men stumbled upon a nearby Union column being led by Union Maj. Gen. James Blunt. Those federals were caught off guard by the guerrilla fighters, and more than 100 Union soldiers were killed — some of them after they surrendered.
Film director John Morris brought his crew from St. Joseph, Mo., for the one-day production. This is his third documentary on the Civil War.
“It is important to tell the story to a younger generation to let them know how brutal this battle was and how important it came to be,” Morris said. “We’re showcasing Baxter Springs’ history.”
The director drew upon local talent, include Louis Morgan, a teacher at Baxter Springs High School. He dressed the part of a Union soldier to take part in the documentary.
“They asked me to participate, and it is a big deal for our community to represent this history,” Morgan said. “It’s something really cool to be a part of.”
Jim Robinson, of Springfield, Mo., is an eight-year “veteran” of Civil War re-enactments throughout Missouri. As part of Robinson’s Light Artillery, his group was asked to bring realism to the documentary, including a replica of the mountain howitzer that the Union soldiers used to defend the fort.
“We enjoy taking part in portraying what Missouri and the surrounding region was like during the war,” Robinson said. “We draw in members from all over Southwest Missouri who love this country’s history.”
A number of events are planned for the sesquicentennial, including a living history encampment with interpreters dressed in period clothing who will demonstrate musketry, drills and cannon firing, and interact with visitors. Experts also will present programs on 19th-century skills, including soap making, weaving and blacksmithing, along with wartime medicine and the Underground Railroad. There also will be programs for children.
Plans call for an evening ball and visits to the historic Baxter Cemetery, where many of the Union soldiers are buried.
“We already have a large slate of activities planned,” O’Neal said.
Referring to the film, he added: “I hope that this is just one more thing that can help show the sacrifice and the bravery that happened right here in our town.”
Medal of Honor
James Pond, a Union soldier, received the Medal of Honor for his heroics on Oct. 6, 1863, at Baxter Springs, Kan. Pond is credited with rallying the men inside the Union outpost and then, moving outside the fortifications alone and unaided, he fired a howitzer several times, “throwing the enemy into confusion and causing him to retire,” according to his medal citation.