Battles remembered: Monument memorializes events that shaped Civil War history
MONTEVALLO -- As though Heaven smiled on mortals' remembrance of three Civil War battles fought here in the spring and summer of 1862, the clouds parted after a night and morning of rain and the sky turned bright blue for an hour-long ceremony and unveiling of a richly detailed granite monument.
Seven flags from the period fluttered in the 11 a.m., Saturday, breeze in southeast Vernon County, where 120 spectators watched Civil War re-enactors and heard speakers tell of the battles of Montevallo, Horse Creek and Church in the Woods.
Then when the ceremony was over and folks were lining up for hotdogs, chips and drinks from the Vernon County Historical Society, realistically dressed members of Elliott's Scouts of Kansas City and Phelps Camp of the Sons of Union Veterans of Springfield and Joplin commenced to skirmishing.
Black smoke drifted as across the moist grass of Montevallo Square as the seven Confederates and four Unionists exchanged booming gunshots with their muzzleloading rifles and shotguns.
Two Union men fell and the Confederate commander called on his men to chase their enemies around the corner of the old stone school building. "Get after 'em, boys!" he hollered, running and brandishing his saber.
Bushwhacker Museum Coordinator Will Tollerton of Nevada said the battles described on the marker "were small, but they were typical of the guerilla warfare that took place along with Missouri-Kansas border."
Former Bushwhacker Museum Coordinator Terry Ramsey mentioned her recent work with the Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area of Southwest Missouri and Southeast Kansas and credited museum board member Eldon Steward of El Dorado Springs for his initiative to have the three-by-four-foot monument cut.
"Because of Eldon's commitment, we have all been given a gift," said Ramsey, noting the ongoing Civil War Sesquicentennial. "It is one thing to read history, it's quite another to experience it."
The event took place 150 years after the April 14, 1862, Battle of Montevallo, which ended with the burning of the original town 1 1/2 miles west of the present day settlement.
Wearing a Confederate gray uniform and cap, Steward said Gen. Sterling "Pap" Price had needed help from Lt. Joe Woods of Montevallo to cross Drywood Creek on Sept. 2, 1861, "because Price weighed 300 pounds and couldn't ride a horse anymore."
Steward said Capt. Jim Gatewood of Montevallo died near the monument site of an accidental gunshot to the groin, after a day of hard fighting. "They buried him at midnight and hid the grave because sometimes the Unionists took them out of their graves and dragged them around behind a horse all over town," he said.
Steward said Price and Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson stayed at Montevallo during the war, as did Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, explaining that at time Montevallo was bigger than Nevada.
Robert Capps of Lee's Summit, a descendant of the local Gabbert family of guerillas and "Lady Bushwhackers," said Abraham Lincoln got no votes in Vernon County in the presidential election of 1860 "because Lincoln was seen here as a radical abolitionist.
"For many people like the Gabberts, the Civil War was a family affair," said Capps, adding as he left the podium, "Remember the bushwhackers!"
Other speakers included Jason Coffman of Independence, commander of the Hughes Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and Jared Lawler of Clinton, commander of the organization's Coffee Camp. Lawler said the ceremony evoked "the ideals of the Confederate soldier which made him glorious and which you also cherish."
Wearing their Union blues, the Phelps Camp's Dale Crandall and Steve Weldon emphasized the sacrifices of both sides. "Wouldn't it be sad if no one remembered them?" Weldon asked.
Elliott's Scouts fired a seven-gun salute after the monument was unveiled by Steward and Ramsey. The colors were presented by the Nevada High School Junior ROTC Color Guard and the benediction and invocation were given by Bob Phillips of Dunnegan, chaplain of John T. Coffee Camp 1934.
Kenny Jones of Nevada sang "Home, Sweet Home."