Monday, March 26, 2012 by Ethan Rafuse
If you are in the Kansas City area tomorrow night and have an interest in the September 1861 Battle of Lexington, check this out:
The National Archives at Kansas City will host Dr. Ethan Rafuse on Tuesday, March 27 at 6:30 p.m. for a lecture titled “Missouri at War: The Battle of Lexington.” A 6:00 p.m. reception will precede the event. Attendees are encouraged to view the Divided Loyalties exhibition prior to the lecture.
The Battle of Lexington in September 1861 marked the high tide of Confederate operations in the state that year. After winning a resounding victory at Wilson’s Creek, Sterling Price led his Missouri State Guard north in an effort to redeem the “Little Dixie” region from Union control. At Lexington, in what became known as the “Battle of the Hemp Bales,” Price’s forces won a rousing victory over a Union force of 3,500 men.
Not only was Lexington the greatest Union defeat of the war in Missouri, it also was one in a series of events that would dash the high hopes Northerners had of Major General John C. Fremont when he assumed command in Missouri. With his record of accomplishment as an officer in the antebellum army, stature as the first Republican presidential candidate, and strong personal connection to the Benton family, the widely celebrated “Pathfinder” had initially seemed to be the right man to lead the North to victory in the state. But within two months after the defeat at Lexington, Fremont’s tenure in command in Missouri would come to an ignominious end. This talk will discuss the fight at Lexington and Fremont’s tenure in command, as well as its larger significance for the war in Missouri.
These events are free, open to the public, and take place at the Kansas City branch of the National Archives and Records Administration, located at 400 West Pershing Road, Kansas City, MO 64108.
This program is part of a lecture series NARA-Kansas City put together that includes three members of the faculty at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. It is designed to support and help promote their current exhibit: Divided Loyalties: Civil War Documents from the Missouri State Archives. A partial description:
Divided Loyalties examines the upheaval and uncertainty that characterized Missouri during the Civil War era. As Missourians divided their loyalties between the Union and the Confederacy, many found themselves facing dire consequences for their decisions. This exhibit focuses on the social conflict that permeated the state for the two decades that followed the Kansas border wars of the mid-1850s. Going beyond the stories of battle and military strategy, original documents demonstrate how even those Missourians who did not serve in the military could be subjected to suspicion, discrimination, and violence.
A full description of the exhibit, which runs through April, can be found here.
I figure emphasizing the hemp angle might help us attract an audience that skews a bit younger demographically than is usually the case.