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Did the Civil War Start Here?

Baldwin City, KS, United States
21 Kudos
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In October of 2012, I visited the Black Jack Battlefield near Baldwin City, Kansas. You might not have heard of this battle, but it maintains an important position in United States history. At this point, along a couple forks of Captain Creek, Abolitionist John Brown and roughly 30 of his men lined up against Henry Clay Pate and a group of Pro-Slavery Border Ruffians who had come from Missouri into Kansas Territory in search of Brown.


This battle took place well before the shots rang out at Fort Sumter. The Battle of Black Jack took place on June 2nd of 1856, roughly 5 years before the official beginning of the Civil War at Fort Sumter. Yet, on this site in Douglas County, Kansas, small groups of Pro-Slavery and Anti-Slavery forces met and began shooting at each other. Interestingly enough, no deaths resulted from this battle.


John Brown and his men hid in a ravine, thus Pate did not realize how many men were fighting alongside Brown. Believing his forces to be outnumbered, Pate’s men ended up surrendering, leading to an Abolitionist victory. Was this the first true battle of the American Civil War? Some historians might argue that it was. Regardless, it was one of many sites of bloodshed during the Bleeding Kansas era that lasted from roughly 1855 to roughly 1860.


If you visit in October, you might find some great fall foliage in addition to some fascinating history. This area of Kansas may not have the fall colors that you would find in New England, but there are some nice sugar maples in the area. Unfortunately, 2012 was a year of severe drought and had some of the poorest fall colors that I can remember. Regardless, I still had an enjoyable visit.
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