It was early morning, 150 years ago today, when a Civil War battle rocked the community of Newtonia.
On Saturday, the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association honored the milestone anniversary by hosting a living history event in conjunction with Newtonia’s annual Fall Festival.

NEWTONIA— It was early morning, 150 years ago today, when a Civil War battle rocked the community of Newtonia.
On Saturday, the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association honored the milestone anniversary by hosting a living history event in conjunction with Newtonia’s annual Fall Festival.

On the land surrounding the Matthew H. Ritchey Mansion, which served as a hospital and headquarters during the Civil War, re-enactors set up camp, and performed several living history demonstrations for the more than 1,000 people who made their way to Newtonia for Saturday’s event.

“Every year we’ve had some soldiers or we’ve had a cannon or we’ve had something, but this year we’ve got it all at one time,” said NBPA president Larry James.

James said the 1862 Civil War battle that took place in Newtonia was a pivotal event for the small community.
“The people here had not had the feeling of what the war was about until that happened,” James said. “The war had not been brought to this area, this community right here, until that day. It also changed the community. People left this area after that.”

James said thousands fought in that initial battle.

He said following the 1862 battle, the community became unsafe, as bushwhackers and thieves also found their way into Newtonia. Because of this, James said, families left the area, relocating to parts of Southeast Kansas, Central Missouri and Arkansas.

“A lot of them fled to safer areas,” James said. “It was not really a safe place to raise a family.”

James said families living in the outlying areas also moved into Newtonia, for fear of living alone. He noted one instance when 13 families shared the same living quarters.

Now, a century-and-a-half later, the Newtonia Battlefields Protection Association works to ensure that the public does not forget the events of that significant day 150 years ago.

“We’re trying to preserve a small bit of history,” James said.


A Confederate army from the Fourth Missouri Company set up camp in Newtonia this weekend.

Dressed in Civil War attire and armed with rifles, the men demonstrated moving their muskets around, fixing bayonets, and firing their rifles.

Across the street, Wilson’s Creek Union Artillery demonstrated the various steps of firing a cannon.

Among those dressed in 1800s attire was Eddie McCallister of Neosho, who has been re-enacting with the Fourth Missouri Company for 20 years.

McCallister said for him, the portrayals are all about educating the public, particularly the children.

“You can read all day long, but to see it, and a guy’s standing in front of you with a rifle, you kind of get the ‘Oh, that’s cool.’ It’s different than in pictures,” McCallister said. “I just want to help teach.”

He said he first got the idea when his children were younger and learning about history lessons in school. He wanted them to do more than read about the battles in homework assignments, so he got involved. McCallister sought out the appropriate clothing of that era, joined the Fourth Missouri Company, and then began performing at school assemblies.
“I was always that way, I could learn a little better if I could get my hands on it and mess with it,” McAllister said. “Just walking through here, kids learn stuff whether they want to admit it or not. They will remember this when they go home and they’ll remember it years later.”

In his own family, McAllister’s involvement in re-enactments was enough to spark an interest.

Only a few feet away, his son, Nathan, dressed in Civil War-era attire, strummed on his guitar.

“He doesn’t re-enact, but 1800s music is his passion,” McAllister said.


Though no battles were fought in Newtonia on Saturday, several bloody, amputated legs and wounded arms could be found at the Field Hospital located on the grounds of the Ritchey Mansion.

The station was hosted by Doug Kidd, who portrayed a civilian doctor 48 hours into his shift of treating wounded soldiers from both the Confederate and Union armies.

For Kidd, the Field Hospital is about more than bringing history to life, it is also a way to make sure aspects of that history are remembered correctly.

“I do this is to give Civil War surgeons a fair shake because history has written them down as butchers,” Kidd said. “I don’t believe that they have been represented rightfully in what they did, why they did it, and what it took to be a doctor back then, and that’s really the reason I do it.”

Kidd said amputations were frequent in the Civil War days, based mostly on a lack of time and manpower, not knowledge.

“They were capable of doing this, they had surgeons that did resections and excision the bone but the problem is that would take me about an hour and a half to do,” Kidd said of saving a wounded arm. “It took me eight minutes to remove an arm, it took me ten minutes to remove a leg, sutured up, done. I’ve got 100 men laying here, grievous wounds, if I don’t get to that man he is going to die and it’s going to take amputation to save his life. I can amputate 10 limbs in the amount of time to do one resection. Do I save a limb or do I save a life?”

Surgical tool kits from the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s were also on hand at Kidd’s tent, showcasing the advances in resources available to field surgeons over only a short period of time.

With the new resources, and the wealth of experience field surgeons acquired, Kidd said amputation procedures greatly improved, going from a circular amputation procedure in the War with Mexico, to a flap procedure by the 1860s.

Kidd said the latter would allow a prosthesis to be used successfully, whereas a circular amputation made that transition difficult, along with a slew of other problems that came with the early procedure.

“War is the greatest university for the advancement of medicine known to man,” Kidd said.