Wornall Homestead - Battle of Westport - Kansas City, Missouri
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member iconions
N 39° 00.992 W 094° 35.566
15S E 362107 N 4319818
This marker - Tour stop 10 - is located at the Wornall House. It is located at Wornall Road & West 61st Terrace.
Waymark Code: WM8AGP
Location: Missouri, United States
Date Posted: 02/28/2010
Published By:Groundspeak Premium Member YoSam.
Views: 12

Text of the marker:

Built in 1858 by John Wornall on his 640-acre farm, this house was in the center of heavy fighting on October 23, 1864. After the last Confederate charge to the north toward Westport was repulsed, this house was used as a field hospital for both Union and Confederate wounded.

Erected by Jackson County Historical Society 1961

From the John Wornall House and the Civil War:
(visit link)

Although some people in western Missouri in 1853 opposed slavery, they were a quiet minority. Jackson Countians found their loyalties split. Many pioneers enjoyed prosperous life based on slavery and had strong ties to southern states. The later settlers from Germany, Ireland, and eastern states felt a stronger bond with the Union cause. The passage of the Kansas-Nebraska in 1854 fueled the disagreement. The Act allowed settlers in the new territories to decide the status of slavery in their state constitutions. Kansas was able to vote and determine whether or not to be a free state. In 1854 pro-slavery forces dominated and a pro-slavery government was formed. Groups wanting to abolish slavery swarmed to Kansas. In 1855, they held their own elections and formed a second government. The fear and distrust on both sides erupted into a battle for dominance and revenge with raids, horse stealing, thievery, and often murder. Local authorities could not maintain the peace and citizens formed vigilance committees.

The principal warring parties in the pre-Civil War’s guerrilla conflict, became known as Jayhawkers and Bushwhackers. Jayhawker referred to Union sympathizers. The name was widely accepted in Kansas by the late 1850s, when anti-slavery advocates, intent on defending Kansas Territory against pro-slavery “border ruffians” from Missouri, adopted it. Bushwhackers were a type of illegitimate Confederate guerrilla.

John Wornall, a slaveholder with family ties to the south, tried to maintain neutrality, but more than once was a subject of violence. Southern sympathizers in Westport, like John Wornall, formed the Westport Minute Men. This patrol tried to ease tensions by imposing further restrictions on blacks and enforcing curfews.

By March 1861, seven states had seceded from the Union, and the border warfare formally became the Civil War. Missouri officially sent one hundred thousand men to the Union army and about thirty thousand to the Confederate forces. But unofficially many men joined in the small, mounted bushwhacker groups that swept down on unsuspecting towns to punish those that disagreed with their views.

In fall 1861, Colonel Charles “Doc” Jennison moved into Jackson County as the leader of the Seventh Kansas Calvary and 1863 commandeered the Wornall home as his headquarters. About 200 men under Jennison’s command occupied the farm for eight days, burning fences, killing livestock, and destroying crops. At the end of the eight days, Jennison admitted that he had come to kill Wornall because of his southern sympathies and alleged aid to the bushwhackers, but finding no evidence to support these rumors, Jennison departed, leaving over $2,800.00 for damages done to the farm.

Young Frank Wornall recalled numerous times that the house was ransacked as soldiers on both sides looked through closets and bureaus for money. At one point John Wornall was almost hanged from the balcony of his home by a bushwhacking party. In October 1864, the Kansas City Journal of Commerce reported, “We learn that a gang of bushwhackers robbed Mr. Wornall about four miles from Westport, being close to the state line, night before last. They took his watch, money, and all his clothing, even to the coat on his back and his underclothing; also two horses. There were eight in the gang.”

Union General Thomas Ewing attempted to establish control by issuing Order 11. This order gave all residents living outside Union occupied towns in several Missouri counties 15 days to declare their allegiance to the Union or evacuate their homes. The Wornall family tried to find accommodations in Westport but it was still highly explosive due to its proximity to the border wars. The family decided on the safety of the Union-occupied Kansas City and purchased a house at 9th and Main. Fortunately when the family returned to their country house in the spring of 1864, it had suffered no damage from the Order.

The culmination of this constant fighting was the Battle of Westport in October 1864. Confederate General Sterling Price hoped to seize both Kansas City and Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, but Union General Samuel Curtis forced him into a hard-fought retreat across present-day Loose Park. Eliza and nine-year old Frank hid the root cellar of their home during the heaviest of the fighting. Each side lost 500 men. Make-shift hospitals were set up in the Harris House Hotel, in churches and schools, as well as in the Wornall House. Soldiers knocked down the banister of the staircase so that stretchers of wounded could be carried to the second floor. As the confederates retreated, all their wounded who could be moved were taken away, and then the Union used the house for their injured.

Shortly after the Battle of Westport, bushwhackers killed Eliza’s father, Rev. Thomas Johnson. The day following the funeral John received an anonymous letter advising him never to appear at his farm house again without protection. His hired hand told him that on the night of the funeral, his brick house was surrounded by bushwhackers who said they killed Rev. Johnson and wanted to administer the same medicine to John Wornall. The family went back to their house in Kansas City. In this home Eliza gave birth to her second son, Thomas Johnson Wornall, and died a week later. Although the war ended in April 1865, John did not return to live in the country house until 1874. He returned with his third wife, Roma.
Web link: [Web Link]

History of Mark:
The Civil War Muse link above has an excellent commentary on this and the rest of the Auto Tour.

Additional point: Not Listed

Visit Instructions:
A clear picture of the Marker or Plaque taken by you.
Also would appreciate you input on the text and location.
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