It’s Morning Edition on KRPS; I’m Fred Fletcher-Fierro.
May 18, 1863. Union forces from Baxter Springs, Kansas, crossed into Jasper County, Missouri, and onto the Rader Farm. Confederate guerrillas attacked and killed 18 soldiers, 15 of which were from the newly formed 1st Kansas Colored Infantry.
The following day, Union forces retaliated by burning the nearby community of Sherwood, MO at the time the third-largest town in Jasper County. Fast-forward to next Tuesday, May 18, 2021, the field where this altercation took place is now Sherwood/Rader Farm Civil War Memorial Park, where a free educational program is taking place. Earlier this week, I spoke with Bob Harrington, President of the Memorial Park, who sets the scene of how the battle played out.
“On May 18 of 1863, a Union company from Fort Gibson in Baxter Springs, mostly made up of the first Kansas colored infantry, were foraging in this area. And they had gone to the Rader Farm. Mrs. Rader left the farm; her husband was a confederate Rader. They knew that, so they went to their farm, and they were foraging. They were actually up on the house’s second floor, throwing corn out the windows into a wagon. They had all of their weapons stacked out against a fence. And Thomas Livingston, a guerilla leader of this area, had about 65 confederate partisans attack them.”
Before 2015, historians didn’t know whether white and black Union soldiers fought alongside each other in this area. That was until Missouri State archeological student Chris Duke working on his Graduate Degree, found 55 artifacts in the area around the Sherwood/Rader Farm Civil War Memorial Park. It was assumed that soldiers of different races fought by separately. Chris’s discoveries altered the history of Southeast Kansas and Southwest Missouri.
“We found where the location of the park is; we knew when the raid happened that the soldiers actually ran to the west, they were following a road to the west. On their way back to Baxter Springs, he did an archeological study where the park is now and found 58 artifacts that were spent bullets, unused bullets. The buckle off of a union cap, part of the horn off of the top of a hat, which we know at that point that the first Kansas infantrymen were wearing, so we know that the skirmish itself did, in fact take place right where the park is, even though the Rader Farm is a little east of that.”
Bob has spent a lifetime researching the US Civil, learning about it’s history, and participating in reenactments. He says the following day, another company from Baxter Springs came to the Radar Farm, rounded up the bodies of the dead soldiers, stacked them in the Radar Family house, and burned it to the ground. There’s even a chance that this one skirmish changed the way that Southwest Missouri would continue to be settled for decades to come.
“And they went to the town of Sherwood, which is about a mile a quarter northwest of the Rader farm. And presuming that the community of Sherwood and the surrounding homesteads were all supporting the guerrilla, they burned the town to the ground, including all of the homesteads around it. And Sherwood has never been built back, and at the time, it was the third-largest community in Jasper county. And it’s all gone; it never was built back.”
The program next Tuesday will include reenactors who will discuss the equipment used by soldiers on both sides. Also, a display of artifacts, including bullets, that were found in Chris’s archaeological study. And a new kiosk, the second in the park, will tell the larger story of the impact of the Civil War on this region. Bob says improvements to the memorial and park are continuing.
“Our long-term plan is to build a two-story pine house on the site, which is representative of the Rader Farm. The only description is that we can find of it, it was, a pine, two-story house, very nice, not typical of this area. We want to build a representative house that we can use for living history and talk about what happened out there. It’s not going to be a replica because we don’t know what the original would look like, but at least it’s a representation that we’ll be able to share with people; that okay, this is what the farmstead would have looked like. And be able to talk about what happened in this area.”
Bob Harrington, President of the Sherwood/Rader Farm Civil War Memorial Park, speaking about the educational program for local middle and high school students next Tuesday, May 18 at 10. It will be held at the Sherwood/Rader Farm Civil War Memorial Park at the intersection of N Peace Church Ave & W Fountain Rd, Galena Township in Missouri. The event is also open to the public.