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Feb 25th
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Home Things to Do Festivals Battle of Black Jack, John Brown’s 1856 Attack on Pro-Slavery Forces, to be Observed June 5 in Kansas

Battle of Black Jack, John Brown’s 1856 Attack on Pro-Slavery Forces, to be Observed June 5 in Kansas

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It would prove to be one of the early trigger points leading up to the Civil War, as abolutionist and antislavery firebrand John Brown led a dawn attack on June 2, 1856 on the camp of a proslavery militia along the Santa Fe Trail.

Approximately 100 men fought a bloody battle that lasted nearly three hours, ending with Henry Pate, the leader of the proslavery forces, surrendering to Brown. The fighting that took place that morning in Southeastern Douglas County in Kanasa Territory simply became known as the Battle of Black Jack. It would become part of the saga of "Bleeding Kansas."


On Saturday, June 5 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., the Black Jack Battlefield Trust will commemorate the 154th Anniversary of the fighting at the battlefield site, south of Lawrence, Kansas.

Re-enactors from around the nation will participate in the first re-enactment of the Battle at Black Jack since it actually happened in 1856. Three re-enactments - 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. - will take place on the actual site of the battle, a quarter of a mile south of Highway 56 on E 2000 Road. Gates are open from 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Admission is $5 per person.

Shane Seley, a principle in Wide Awake Films, Kansas City, Mo., is coordinating re-enactment of the battle. Seley, a filmmaker specializing in stories of the Civil War, is a re-enactor, assisted by Thom Weik, a re-enactor from Lawrence, Kan.

The battle will be introduced by Kerry Altenbernd, Lawrence, Kan., portraying John Brown, leader of the Anti-Slavery cause and Greg Higginbotham, Independence, Mo., portraying Henry Clay Pate, leader of the pro-slavery cause. Both Altenbernd and Higginbotham will speak in retrospect of the battle and answer questions in character at the end of each reenactment.

Additional attractions at the Anniversary event include:

  • Civil War wet-plate collodion photography demonstration by Robert Szabo. Using the process introduced in 1851, Szabo produces modern artistic images using 19th century methods.
  • Sutler demonstrators, such as a basket maker, spinner and blacksmith, will appear in addition to the James Country Mercantile from Liberty, Mo.
  • Visitors can walk through the encampment of re-enactors to see historic weapons demonstrations and hear Civil War music.
  • Marla Jackson, quilt artist, will display her quilts depicting John Brown and stories of African American heritage.
  • Groups such as the Douglas County Genealogy Society, Santa Fe Trail Historical Society, Freedom's Frontier National Heritage Area, Civil War Descendants (both Union and Confederate) and other authors of books of the time will participate.
  • The Lecompton Players will end the day with a rousing interactive performance to educate one and all about the perspectives of the Border War.

For the 21st century visitor, plenty of good food and drink will be available. Tickets to the event can be purchased in advance at www.blackjackbattlefield.org or at the gate for $5 each, which gains admission for the entire day. The location is three miles east of Baldwin City, Kansas, a quarter mile south of Highway 56 on E2000 Road.

The Black Jack Trust is a non-profit membership organization with a goal to preserve, interpret and maintain this important piece of history and natural Kansas landscape.

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