By Susan Redden
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Next May 16 will mark the 150th anniversary of the battle at Rader’s Farm, and a local committee hopes to have some sort of memorial under way to commemorate the event.
Officials three years ago announced the purchase of a portion of the farm property north of Joplin, with plans to develop a historic site where a regiment of black soldiers was ambushed and killed by Confederate guerrillas.
Planning started soon after the purchase of the five-acre tract at the corner of Peace Church and Fountain roads, but was interrupted by the May 22, 2011, tornado and its aftermath. The committee working on the project will describe efforts thus far at a meeting at 10 a.m. Wednesday with the Jasper County Commission.
“We have to have authorization to proceed from the commission, since the county owns the property,” said Brad Belk, curator of the Joplin Museum Complex and a member of the committee. “We hope to have something started by May, and there’s a lot to do.”
The tract has been cleared by county road crews. A small barn is the only structure still standing on the property. The committee hopes the site eventually will include a structure to replicate the original Rader farmhouse, with a small cabin and a split-rail fence at the perimeter of the land.
Another step the commission will have to endorse is the designation of a tax-exempt entity that will help collect donations to finance the memorial.
“What we would like to see is the homestead as the memorial, with the building used to complement the living history,” said Steve Weldon, who is the county archivist and a student of Civil War history in the region.
Committee members, including local historians, authors and others, hope to see the site memorialize those who died there. They also see the project as an opportunity to explain the importance of the region in Civil War history.
“This area represents people of all factions and the multicultural nature of the Civil War on the western border,” Weldon said.
The farm property is where a regiment of 40 members of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry had come to forage for food. They began gathering corn at the Rader farm near the village of Sherwood when they were ambushed by a guerrilla band of about 70 Southern sympathizers. Fifteen black soldiers were shot and killed. Most of the regiment’s white escorts escaped on horseback, though they were chased down and also killed.
The next day, Union reinforcements arrived and found the soldiers’ bodies, which had been mutilated. On orders from the regiment’s white commander, the bodies were placed inside the Rader house and burned, along with the body of a Southern sympathizer who was shot after he was found nearby. The commander also ordered nearby communities, including Sherwood, burned to the ground.
Weldon said a nearby location where Center Creek flows into Spring River was the start of a recruitment expedition by Southern forces. That expedition was to go west and pick up soldiers who had fled. Those soldiers were to be moved to Texas, where they would be organized as part of the Confederate army. When the group was in Southeast Kansas, it was attacked by Osage Indians.
“All but two of them were killed, and their heads were cut off and piled on the prairie,” Weldon said. “But two of them escaped and came back to Jasper County, and all that became part of the lore of the Osage Nation.
“So here we have two massacres, one against Union forces by the Confederates and one against the Confederates by the Indians. Most assuredly, there are stories to tell from all sides.”
THE FIVE-ACRE TRACT was purchased at a cost of $25,000, with a donation from Joplin attorneys Ed and Allison Hershewe.