Battle of the Big Blue Historical Marker Inscription
"On October 22, 1864, after the Union line along the Big Blue was flanked, Jackman's Confederate Brigade overran the militia at the Mockbee Farm, 78th & Holmes, and drove Jennison's Union Brigade back to the State Line. Jennison and Moonlight's Brigades then pushed Jackman back to this area in late afternoon. Thompson's Confederate Brigade came up at dusk. Fighting continued until dark when both sides pulled back.
"The GAR Monument Site on Paseo was selected by William S. Shepherd who fought with Moonlight here."
The marker describes events that took place on Saturday, October 22, 1864. Remember that Brig. Gen. Jo Shelby's Confederate Cavalry Division had forced a crossing of the Big Blue River at Byram's Ford, which was being defended by Union Col. Charles R. Jennison's 1st Cavalry Brigade from the Army of the Border supported by some Kansas State Militia. The Union position had been flanked and they began a slow withdrawal west. Jennison's troops stubbornly resisted the Confederate advance but were forced all the way back across the state line into Kansas. At that point, Jennison was reinforced by Col. Thomas Moonlight with his 2d Cavalry Brigade and the Federals were able to counterattack, eventually forcing Brig. Gen. M. Jeff Thompson's Confederates back to a point near where you are currently standing. The fighting ended as darkness fell.
Brig. Gen. Jo Shelby wrote about this part of the fighting in his official report.
Crossing the Big Blue and facing the enemy on the right, engaged them to cover the crossing and passing of the train. Sending General [M. Jeff] Thompson with his entire brigade, except [Frank B.] Gordon's regiment, to force the Federals back to Westport, I held Gordon to watch the left, now being demonstrated upon, until Jackman came up. Thompson drove everything before him on the right within sight of the domes and spires of Westport, and then the Federals got stubborn and re-enforced on him, holding a heavy skirt of timber that fringed the lower edge of a large field.
Col. Charles R. Jennison, 15th Kansas Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Brigade, Army of the Border, wrote about the day's fighting in his official report.
About 3 p.m., when it became evident that he had succeeded in crossing considerable bodies, both above and below, and was rapidly flanking us both on the right and left. Upon this intelligence (word of which was sent to the general commanding with the additional report that the main body of the rebels was apparently in front and determined to effect a crossing at Byram's Ford) it was determined to retire in the direction of Westport or Kansas City, toward which it was evident the efforts of the enemy were directed. Our lines at the ford having been forced back, the rebels succeeded in crossing a considerable force of dismounted cavalry, a portion of which was employed in removing obstructions in the river, while the others were deployed on either side of the road, and advanced toward us. Then, with a strong body of rebels pressing upon our rear and in constant expectation that our flanks would be attacked, the brigade commenced to retreat toward Westport, contesting every foot of ground until the enemy gave over the action and retired to the ford. Reaching the open ground some four or five miles between Westport and the State line, a large body of troops was discovered on our left advancing in a northerly direction from the timber of the Blue.
Upon reaching the Line road we were joined by Colonel Moonlight's command, when the First and Second Brigades were rapidly pushed forward upon the prairie to resist the advance of the enemy under Shelby, who had evidently crossed at the ford four miles above Byram's. Skirmishers were immediately deployed from both brigades, and in a few minutes the action was commenced along the entire line, entirely with small-arms. A body of Kansas State Militia coming up soon after, it was formed in line of battle immediately in rear of First Brigade, when the rebels, being closely pressed by our skirmish lines, wavered for a moment, and then began to give ground. Upon this a general advance of the First Brigade was ordered, and the lines were rapidly advanced toward the enemy, who, after a slight resistance, fell back in confusion to the cover of the timber some two or three miles distant, closely followed by our forces, until, as the sun went down, not a vestige of the rebel Shelby's division beyond its dead and a few wounded was to be seen upon the field.
Col. Thomas Moonlight, 11th Kansas Cavalry, 2d Cavalry Brigade, Army of the Border remembered the Federal counterattack.
It was no longer a matter of doubt as to the intentions of the enemy so, without any orders, I threw my brigade around the men of the first, and on his right flank checking the enemy on the very line of Kansas & Missouri, The 1st Brigade joined me and between us we thrashed the rebels back into the timber of Missouri, compelling a whole division to seek shelter in the bosom of their army. This was a beautiful cavalry fight on the open prairie, the enemy throwing rebel bullets into Kansas & we throwing union bullets into Missouri, for we were on each side of the line where the fight commenced. Darkness again closed the strife and the 2nd Brigade bivouacked on Kansas soil, determined to meet the first advance of the enemy into Kansas.