Battle of Black celebration is set to unfold
All the preparation and the talk is over. Now it's time for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Black Jack, which will take place Friday and Saturday just east of Baldwin City.
Friends of the Battle of Black Jack board have been working for years for this day, June 2, 2006, which falls 150 years after the battle, which was on June 2, 1856. It was the first armed skirmish between anti- and pro-slavery forces and eventually led to the Civil War.
"We're as ready as we can be," said Brenda Day, a member of the Friends of the Black Jack board of directors. "It should be quite a celebration."
Fellow board member Kerry Altenbrend agreed.
"Ready or not, here they come," said Altenbrend. "We are close to being ready. We really have no idea about attendance. Ticket sales are going OK, but I know personally a number of people are waiting until the day of the events to buy them. Who knows how many will just show up? The motor coach tour is nearly full."
There are activities planned throughout the weekend at the site three miles east of Baldwin City, just south of U.S. Highway 56. The celebration kicks off with a campfire supper at 6 p.m., which will feature buffalo stew, cornbread, mixed berry cobbler and drinks. Cost in advance is $20, at the gate $25. Included in the cost is a commemorative mug for the John Brown Ale and Black Jack porter with the meal, which is all being catered by the Free State Brewery in Lawrence. Cost for children is $6, but includes no mug.
Just prior to the dinner, period music is set to start around 5:30 p.m. and last until 7:30 p.m. It will include auto harps, dulcimers, banjos and other instruments of the time. People in period clothing will be everywhere, adding to the ambience of an evening 150 years after Bleeding Kansas took hold with the storied battle.
Also from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., there will be tours of the battlefield and the nearby Black Jack Cabin by the Santa Fe Historical Society, as well as prairie tours by the Native Plant Society.
The crowning event will be the 7:30 p.m. program, when there will be a portrayal of John Brown by Arnold Schofield, which is titled "John Brown's Letter to His Wife." Of course, John Brown is the infamous leader of anti-slavery efforts in Kansas, who was a key figure any many pre-Civil War events.
"The subject of the letter from John Brown to his wife is the battle," saidAltenbernd.. "My understanding is that in it he describes the battle and comments on it."
Saturday's events kick off with a breakfast on the prairie consisting of sausage, gravy, biscuits, fruit and coffee at 7:30 a.m. Cost is $10 in advance, $12 at the gate and $5 for children. At 8:30 a.m., the invocation will be give by Rev. Adair, another figure from the era, portrayed by Ron Rushley.
At 9 a.m., there will be another portrayal of a central figure to the story, August Bondi, by Bill Worley and appearance by the John Brown character. At 10 a.m., music will be provided by the Blue & Gray Brigade. Also at that time, the battlefield, Black Jack Cabin and Prairie tours will resume.
In Baldwin City, there will also be talks by Brown and Bondi decendents in Rice Auditorium at Baker University. They are to begin at 10 a.m., as well. A motor coach tour of John Brown's trail throughout the area starts at 1:30 p.m. It is limited to the first 50 people and seats have been filling up fast. Cost is $10 and will last three hours.
Also at Baker, the Jacob Lawrence exhibit "Legends of John Brown" will be on display at the Holt-Russell Gallery in Parmenter Hall.
Tickets may be purchased at Mid America Bank, the Baldwin City Chamber of Commerce and the Lawrence Visitor Center. Call the chamber at 594-3200 for more information or go to the Web site at www.blackjackbattlefield.org.