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Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
January 2013 Meeting

444th Regular Meeting, Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Todd Mildfelt and Dave Schafer delivered a presentation entitled, “Journey of a Jayhawker: The Anti-Slavery Career of James Montgomery.” Todd Mildfelt is a schoolteacher for Greenbush USD 609 and has taught 29 years. In 1987, Dave Schafer began his National Park Service career at Fort Scott National Historic Site (NHS). Since then he has worked at other historic sites in Hawaii, Missouri, Texas, Puerto Rico, and Oklahoma.

This month marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. In January of 1863 the war was marching into its third bloody year and President Lincoln, with the stroke of a pen, expanded the war’s scope to include “a new birth of freedom.” Ending the enslavement of four million Americans would become one of Lincoln’s war aims. For a radical abolitionist like James Montgomery, the proclamation justified a course of action he had pursued for years. Montgomery had actively fought the spread of slavery during the critical decade of the 1850s and he actively sought the death of slavery during the Civil War.

Todd Mildfelt and Dave Schafer are writing a biography of James Montgomery. Both men grew up in Richmond, Kansas, and have been friends for many years. While earning history degrees from Pittsburg State University, both were students of Dr. Dudley T. Cornish, author of The Sable Arm: Black Troops in the Union Army, 1861 – 1865.

Leading his family to Kansas shortly after the territory opened for settlement in 1854, James Montgomery emerged as the most important free state leader in southern Kansas. He settled on a farm five miles west of current-day Mound City. After Montgomery stood up to the pro-slavery majority in Linn County, a group of pro-slavery men burned his cabin in retaliation. In response, Montgomery organized a guerilla force (the original “Jayhawkers”) to fight back. Montgomery evolved into a self-reliant—and sometimes vengeful—anti-slavery warrior. His home became a stop on the Underground Railroad. A controversial figure, Montgomery was hailed as a hero by some, but labeled a villain by others. He combined an unusual blend of self-confidence, a serene demeanor, and purposeful aggression to become a formidable personality. Inspired by a deep belief in God and the righteousness of his cause, Montgomery believed that violence in the service of justice was his right. In 1863, Montgomery fulfilled his dream—and the dream of fellow abolitionist John Brown—when the Kansas Jayhawker recruited and commanded one of the war’s first black regiments.

Todd Mildfelt is a schoolteacher for Greenbush USD 609 and has taught 29 years—28 of those years have been in special education. He began researching a man named Charles Leonhardt in 2001 that resulted in his first book, The Secret Danites: Kansas’ First Jayhawkers. This book was about a secret anti-slave society that operated during territorial Kansas.

 Building on that topic, Todd continued researching the Underground Railroad on the frontier and published his first book for young readers in 2011 titled Wagon Train To Freedom. The story is based on an Underground Railroad trip from Lawrence, Kansas during the summer of 1860 led by Rev. John Stewart. This trip traveled as far west as Wabaunsee County. Todd plans to follow this book with two more, also based on actual episodes of the Underground Railroad in Kansas.

In 1987, Dave Schafer began his National Park Service career at Fort Scott National Historic Site (NHS). Since then he has worked at other historic sites in Hawaii, Missouri, Texas, Puerto Rico, and Oklahoma. For the last five months, he has been serving as acting superintendent of Nicodemus NHS. In late January he will return to his position as chief of interpretation at Brown v. Board of Education NHS in Topeka. Dave was a member of the Civil War Roundtable of Kansas City from 1992 to 1999 while he was working at Harry S Truman NHS. He rejoined the roundtable after he moved back to Kansas in 2009.

Dennis Garstang presides over first meeting as new President of the Round Table.

Todd Mildfelt and Dave Schafer presenting “Journey of a Jayhawker: The Anti-Slavery Career of James Montgomery.” 

Todd Mildfelt and Dave Schafer presenting “Journey of a Jayhawker: The Anti-Slavery Career of James Montgomery.” 

President Dave Garstang presents Dave Schafer (left) and Todd Mildfelt (right) with Round Table's Certificate of Appreciation.

Civil War Round Table of Kansas City
P.O. Box 6202
Shawnee Mission, KS 66206

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