Photos by Linda Barta An Oak Grove student chooses a skillet when packing to leave his home for Ewings’s Order #11. In the background, the “three Rs” are taught by another volunteer.

May 18, 2024

Today the scenario is called WTSHTF. In 1863, it was called Ewing’s General Order #11 in four Missouri counties bordering Kansas. Rural families in these counties had two weeks to abandon their homes and flee to a safer location.

Volunteers explain Civil War weapons (left). Other volunteers discuss Native Americans and trapping as the area became settled in the early 1800s.

On May 9 the Lone Jack Historical Society hosted 146 Oak Grove 8th-grade students. They learned about this horrifying order that failed spectacularly in its efforts to crush Missouri’s bushwhacker activities.

Students crowd around a Lone Jack police officer to learn about law enforcement and how those boring school subjects help him do his job.

The Lone Jack Historical Society hosted more than 150 students on both days. Living historian volunteers and a Lone Jack Police Department officer immersed the students in various areas of significance in Missouri history from the 19th through 21st centuries.

The Missouri History Day trail had 12 stops where they learned about different aspects of the state’s history. Enthusiastic teachers immersed their students and promoted active participation in their subjects.

At the Order #11 stop, they learned that many able-bodied men were away fighting in one army or the other. Old men, women and children were left alone on the farms. Instead of removing the bushwhackers’ support system, this order displaced these vulnerable people. Because horses and mules had been confiscated by one army or the other, many of these families were forced to walk for days or even weeks to find a haven, often with only the clothes on their backs and what they could carry in a gunny sack.

Students chose from an assortment of items to take in their sacks. They had to explain why they chose what they did. They calculated that a cast iron skillet could be used to both cook food and hit an assailant over the head when one did not have a squirrel gun. In an emergency, pages could be torn from a book to start a fire.

Ewing’s Order #11 was personally and economically devastating to families and communities. Lone Jack went from 1500 residents in the 1860 census to 500 after the order. The town took more than 160 years to recover to pre-Civil War numbers.

Providing a glimpse into community participation, students learned about the schoolhouse “three R’s” in the 19th century. They learned about civilians sewing for the soldiers and why it was important for soldiers to know the rudiments of mending torn uniforms. They discovered the strength needed by the women to procure food to feed their families and to keep their farms producing through the hardships of war. Another historian brought the art of blacksmithing to life.

Militarily, the students learned about Civil War weapons as well as drilling. They discovered the breakthroughs in medicine wartime healers uncovered to deal with battlefield suffering. Standing in the cemetery, another historian discussed the Lone Jack battle and the trenches where soldiers were buried. Another led a tour through the museum discussing various artifacts.

Others explored the daily life of early trappers and settlers as they met the Native Americans living in the area. Another historian taught the students to look away from their cell phones for entertainment as he taught them how to play 19th-century games.

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