At our dinner meeting held on November 26th, Ms. Connie Langum, Park Ranger and Historian at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, gave a very interesting program titled: "The Battles of and for Newtonia, 1862 and 1864 to Today."
The first battle of Newtonia was fought on September 30, 1862. The battle pitted Union Brig. General James Blunt against Confederate Col. J.O. Shelby. Confederate forces numbered 4,000. Union forces numbered about 6,500. The 1862 battle was one of the very few Civil War encounters in which Native Americans fought on both sides. Southern forces had Choctaw, Cherokee, and Chickasaw soldiers, while other Cherokee soldiers fought with the North. The Confederate 1st Cherokee fought against Chief John Ross and his "Pin Indians" who were sympathetic to the Union. Ms. Langum said the Native Amercians fought each other in hand-to-hand combat using traditional warfare: scalps, tomahawks, etc. A turning point in the battle occurred when the Native Americans got out of control. This was a relatively short engagement lasting about six hours. Today, the site includes 30-35 acres of the battlefield and the Matthew H. Ritchey Mansion, which served as headquarters for both Union and Confederate troops at different points.
The second battle of Newtonia was fought on October 28, 1864. The battle was a delaying action fought by Shelby to protect General Sterling Price's retreat to Arkansas. It was the last battle of the Civil War fought in Missouri. Price's objective was to take Missouri for the Confederacy. However, Price was an infantry commander, not a cavalry commander. Price failed miserably. He had too long of a wagon train. Shelby protected Price's flank and rear. Today, the 1864 battlefield is open cornfield.
Additional points made by Ms. Langum are as follows:
- You can read all about a battle, but until you walk the field, you do not know what those soldiers experienced.
- Newtonia is located in the southwest comer of Missouri. It was centrally located near lead mines. The population of Newtonia today is only about 200, which is less than it was during the 1860's. It is a very rural area.
- In 1993, a Civil War Sites Advisory Commission categorized about 2,000 battlefields as to what could be preserved versus what could not be preserved. The 1864 battlefield was on the Priority 1 list. The 1862 battlefield was on the Priority 2 list. Ms. Langum helped get grant money to preserve the battlefield. Originally there were 8.4 acres of donated land.
- In 1998, the Newtonia Battlefield Protection Association became a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The Newtonia Battlefield Protection Association preserves and interprets the Matthew H. Ritchey home and the surrounding 1862 and 1864 battlefields. Most of the land is in private hands. They do not own any property related to the 2nd battle of Newtonia.
- The Ritchey home was built in 1840 using slave labor. This 2-story house was used as a headquarters and field hospital during the battle. The Ritchey family and their slaves are buried in the Ritchey family cemetery. In 2005, ground-penetrating radar was used to uncover remnants of the African-American cemetery. Ms. Langum said you can be a caretaker, but you cannot own a cemetery.
- In 2003, the Newtonia Battlefield received $146,050 from the U.S government to cover half of the cost of the property.
- In 2007, Rudy Farber donated $90,000 to pay off the debt on the Ritchey mansion.
- The National Park Service conducted a Newtonia Battlefields Special Resource Study. Their report, dated January of 2013, concluded: "The National Park Service finds that the Newtonia Battlefields do not meet the criteria for establishing an independent unit of the National Park System and do not meet the established criteria for an addition to Wilson's Creek National Battlefield. No new federal ownership or management is proposed." Although, she served as an advisor on the study, Ms. Langum disagreed with the findings of the study because of the Native American involvement during the first battle. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri is still pursuing this. Ms. Langum said her goal is to become the first superintendent at Newtonia.
- 30-35 acres of land are owned now. Ms. Langum would like to add another 5 acres. However, they have not been able to buy any more land, because it is prime cornfield. The current landowner owns over 100 acres. However, the owner is not willing to sell any of their land or allow the National Park Service to interpret the battlefield. Ms. Langum said conservation easements are only good if you have a willing landowner.
Round Table President Dan Dooley discussing the history of Thanksgiving.
Speaker Connie Langum and her husband Rick.
Hether Belusky, who is the newest member of our Round Table. Welcome Hether!
Ron Basel and guest Liz Hackworth. Liz teaches third grade in the Shawnee Mission School District.
Paul Gault, who served many years as treasurer of our Round Table.
Roger Stanton, who has been a big supporter of our live auction book sales.