Kansas joined the Union on January 29, 1861. Three months later, the Civil War began for Kansas when Fort Sumner was fired upon by Confederate troops. There were rumors in Washington D.C. that current president Abraham Lincoln was in danger of kidnapping or assassination, so Kansas formed the “Frontier Guard”, consisting of 120 volunteer men, and was one of the first groups to be in D.C. to protect the president, all at the behest of Senator James H. Lane.
Such a post of honor, on such an emergent occasion—for the President had heard the rumor that day that himself and Gen. Scott were in danger of assassination from a Virginia party that night—was no ordinary compliment. Other companies, of no little notoriety and experience, were in the city, but this distinction was reserved for Kansas.
—Kansas State Journal, Lawrence, May 9, 1861
During the Civil War, the federal government issued multiple calls throughout the union for troops, and in particular asked Kansas for 16,654 men. In the end, over 20,000 men enlisted and Kansas contributed at least 19 regiments and 4 batteries to the Union forces. Over the course of the war, Kansas suffered nearly 8500 casualties.
Kansas troops moved all over the U.S. map and assisted in campaigns in Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Some notable contributions include:
- The First Regiment Kansas Colored Infantry which distinguished itself at Honey Springs, Indian Territory in the Fall of 1862 as a fighting unit.
- Major-General James G. Blunt who commanded a brigade in Arkansas in the battles of Rhea’s Hill, Cane Hill, and Prairie Grove.
- The Second Kansas Colored which distinguished itself at Jenkins Ferry, Arkansas, on April 30.
- The Battle of Mine Creek in Linn County, Kansas, where Confederate troops under General Sterling Price were defeated by Federal troops under Generals Samuel Curtis, Alfred Pleasonton, and Blunt, making it the largest battle to be fought in Kansas during the Civil War.
After the war, many of the soldiers returned to their lives. For James H. Aley, he made his way home after he was discharged on July 11, 1865. Aley was a native of Albany, New York and was 24 years old at the time of his discharge. (Shown below in United States discharge papers, from the Old Cowtown Museum collection.)
In 1870, he first visited the area and bought a claim near present day Valley Center, Kansas. Aley then returned to Illinois and tried to sell his home but was unsuccessful. He finally traded his home for a substantial stock of shoes and boots. In the spring of 1870, Aley opened Wichita’s first boot and shoe store at 90 N. Main Street. He sold his prospering business in 1885 to concentrate on his growing insurance company. Along with his businesses Aley was also the Chairman of the Board of the Sedgwick County Commissioners in 1888 and a member of several masonic lodges in Wichita. In 1889, he built a Queen Anne style mansion at 1505 Fairview which still stands to this day. Jacob H. Aley died on March 24, 1895 of anemia at the age of 54 and is buried in Wichita’s Maple Grove Cemetery.
Want to know more about the Civil War? Visit Cowtown this weekend (4/29/17) for Civil War Day !