Battle of Black Jack Battlefield 155th Anniversary Events Planned

6/1/2011 • Black History, Black History Month, Civil War Causes, John Browns Raid On Harpers Ferry, Kansas Nebraska Act, Slavery

[PRESS RELEASE] Baldwin City, KS – Four events organized by the Black Jack Battlefield Trust will commemorate the 155th Anniversary of the Battle of Black Jack. On Thursday, June 2nd at 5:00am the actual date and time of the battle, a free guided tour will be given. Also on Thursday, June 2nd Shared Stories of the Civil War: John Brown Martyr or Madman, a program of the Kansas Humanities Council & sponsored by Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area, will be presented at 7:00pm at the Lumberyard Arts Center, 718 High Street, Baldwin City, KS. Admission is FREE. On Friday, June 3rd, an 1856 Lamplight Camp Tour will be held at the battlefield site three miles east of Baldwin City, Kansas (1/4 mile south of Hwy 56 on E 2000 Road). Reservations are required for this event scheduled for 8:00-9:00pm at a cost of $15 per person and can be made online at

On Saturday, June 4, begin the day by hearing from John Brown at 10am on the Black Jack Stage. Brown is portrayed by Kerry Altenbernd, a third generation native of Douglas County, Kansas performing first-person interpretations of John Brown since 2006. Reenactors from around the nation will participate in three reenactments of the Battle at Black Jack at 11 a.m., 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. – on the actual site of the battle. Gates open at 9 a.m. Admission is $8 for adults & $1 for children ages 3-12 and can be purchased in advance at or at the gate which gains admission for the entire day.

Shane Seley, a principle in Wide Awake Films, Kansas City, MO, coordinates the reenactment of the battle. Seley, a filmmaker specializing in stories of the Civil War, is a reenactor and he is assisted by Thom Weik, a reenactor from Lawrence, KS. The battle will be introduced by Kerry Altenbernd, Lawrence, KS, portraying John Brown as he appeared just before his hanging at Harpers Ferry.

See a Wide Awake Films production about the event at Video footage can be obtained by contacting Shane Seley, Wide Awake Films at (816) 872-3456 or

Diane Eickhoff, an independent scholar from Kansas City, Missouri, will portray Clarina Nichols. She is the author of Kansas Notable Book, Revolutionary Heart: The Life of Clarina Nichols and the Pioneering Crusade for Women’s Rights. Fred Krebs will portray Stephen A. Douglas, who wrote and introduced the Kansas-Nebraska Act which opened the territory to organized migrations of pro-slave and anti-slave groups. Krebs has been a professor in the social sciences and humanities division at the Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas, for 39 years. He is a prolific public speaker on subjects ranging from Dead Sea Scrolls, women in American history, African-American history, leadership and community, foreign policy, arts and literature, and film studies.

For the 21st century visitor, plenty of good food and drink will be available. Additional attractions at the event include sutler demonstrators such as a basket maker, spinner and blacksmith in addition to the James Country Mercantile from Liberty, Mo. as well as activities for children. Visitors can walk through the encampment of reenactors to see historic weapons demonstrations and hear Civil War music.
The Black Jack Trust is a non-profit membership organization with a goal to preserve, interpret and maintain this important piece of history and natural Kansas landscape.

Early in the pre-dawn hours of June 2, l856 a group of about twenty-five Kansas free-staters, led by the controversial abolitionist John Brown, moved quietly across the prairie a few miles east of present-day Baldwin City, Kansas. Within a few hours they would be engaged in a pitched battle with seventy Missouri pro-slavery men led by Captain Henry Clay Pate.

This confrontation had its roots in recent events which had raised tensions in the area to the breaking point. Sheriff Jones and his pro-slavery forces had sacked the town of Lawrence less than two weeks earlier, destroying the Free State Hotel and dumping the newspapers’ presses into the river. Just three days later five people in Franklin County were dragged from their homes and brutally murdered in the Pottawatomie Massacre. John Brown and his sons were implicated in the killing, and Henry Clay Pate set out to find him.

Pate, travelling west, camped at Black Jack Springs, a popular campground along the Santa Fe trail, and it was here that he was surprised by the attack of Brown’s men in the early morning light of June 2. Each side sought cover behind the banks of a creek, and the firing went on for several hours before Pate, thinking he was outnumbered, sought a truce. Brown, however, took Pate as a prisoner and the battle was over. The Battle of Black Jack was the first armed action in which forces of comparable strength fought over the issue of slavery, and a growing number of historians agree that it was here that the Civil War began.