In the pre-dawn hours of June 2, 1856, not far from where Baldwin City now is, John Brown led a group of free-staters in an attack on pro-slavery forces led by Henry Clay Pate. What ensued was a three hour battle that ended in Pate’s men surrendering to Brown. This has become known as the Battle of Black Jack.
Historical opinion of the battle differs; some see it as the beginning of civil war combat in Kansas, if not the country, while others view it with much less importance. Opinions aside, the Black Jack Battlefield and Nature Park that stands on the site today is worth a visit by history and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
Located three miles East of Baldwin City, just off Hwy. 56 about a quarter mile, the Park offers a variety of events at which you can learn the history of the area as well as enjoy the beauty of the land.
Saturday, March 31 is the Civil War Trust Park Day, during which volunteers “spring clean” various areas of the park. I pitched in last year raking leaves, pulling weeds and even hauling away household junk that had been dumped. Not the easiest way to spend a Saturday, but so worth hearing the great stories of the area. I also gained an understanding of the work people put in year-round. And last, but not least, I got plenty of exercise hiking around the property!
If you don’t mind getting up early, Dawn at Black Jack Battlefield on June 2 is a wonderful chance to learn about the battle while walking the battlefield at the exact time and day it took place. Be prepared to be there by 4:45 a.m. because they like to keep it authentic and will begin by 5 a.m. It may be early, but seeing the sunrise enhances your experience all the more.
In addition to organized events, the area is open 365 days a year, from dawn to dusk, for self-guided tours. Nature trails run throughout the area, encompassing a variety of terrain. Wear comfortable shoes, bring water and be prepared to enjoy some of the best of natural Kansas. The area offers a wide variety of plant and animal species.
Note, guided tours are available at 1pm on weekends from May through October.
Please visit www.blackjackbattlefield.org for more information on the battlefield and park. They are routinely updating event information and much more.