“Burnt District” Memory

When I was researching for my paper, I found something that I hadn’t thought much about before.  In Harrisonville, Missouri, which is a short drive from where I grew up, they have several interesting ways of commemorating the Civil War.  Harrisonville is the county seat of Cass County, which sits on the Kansas state line.  The county was the scene of really brutal violence before and during the war.  According to the website for the Battle of Lone Jack battlefield (about 20 miles from Harrisonville), the war really started in the region in 1854, when “Dishonorable men, clothing themselves with the contentions of patriotic citizens, crossed the State line from both sides and committed crimes of every kind from larceny to murder.”[1]

General Order Number 11, which I wrote about two weeks ago, turned the area around Harrisonville into a veritable wasteland.  Families had the option of leaving their homes outright, or swearing allegiance to the Union and moving to within one mile of a garrison town.  In Cass County, this meant that there are virtually no antebellum structures still standing.  The county, along with Jackson County, Bates County, and part of Vernon County, became known as the “Burnt District,” because all that remained were blackened chimneys.[2]  The monument today is a chimney, made from stone taken from the homestead of Henry Younger.  Younger was the father of bushwhacker Cole Younger, who, after the Civil War, joined Jesse James’ gang.  In Harrisonville, he is somewhat legendary.[3]

In the square in Harrisonville, murals surrounding the County Courthouse depict scenes from the Civil War era.  One mural is of “Jennison’s Jayhawks” looting the town in 1861.  Another is of the future outlaw, Cole Younger, and his family fleeing a farm put to torch by Union soldiers.  A third mural depicts “significant events, places and people of the Civil War in Cass County,” including burning buildings and what appear to be guerrillas.[4]

It is interesting to see these examples of memory shaping in the area where I’m from.  Growing up, I knew vaguely of the sentiments that these memorializations represent, but I had no idea these examples existed.

[1] “General Order #11,” Lone Jack Historical Society, accessed July 5, 2012, at http://www.historiclonejack.org/order11.html.

[2] “The Burnt District Monument: Inscription (left side plaque),” HMDB.org, September 1, 2009, accessed July 5, 2012, at http://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=22089.

[3] “The Burnt District Monument,” Cass County Historical Society, 2012, accessed July 5, 2012, at http://casscountyhistoricalsociety.com/?page_id=797.

[4] “Civil War Murals on Harrisonville Square,” Cass County Historical Society, February 14, 2011, accessed July 5, 2012, at http://casscountyhistoricalsociety.com/?p=633.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: