True Grit At The Lone Jack Civil War Museum

Being from the Midwest means that we can find lots of historical sites within close proximity to our hometown. While it may not be Crystal’s favorite, I am particularly intrigued by the Civil War battles and skirmishes in the region. These are numerous, so she has learned to make the best of it, and look for the personal stories that can be found entwined with the military data. Our visit to the Lone Jack Civil War Museum gave me another chance to further explore the actions in the border region. Located just a few minutes outside of Lee’s Summit, Lone Jack is an easy day trip destination from the KC metro.

We want to thank the Lone Jack Civil War Museum for their hospitality. Rest assured that all opinions are our own.

Displays at the Lone Jack Civil War Museum detail the battles fought at Westport and Lone Jack.

Local Battles

The museum is focused on showing the atmosphere that the civilians of the region experienced during the years in and around the Civil War. With Kansas coming into the Union as a ‘Free State”, it set up the whole area as a powder keg of division. Union and Confederate troops battled for continued control over the land, but could only patrol small sections overall. Confederate guerrillas and Union irregulars performed dastardly attacks on the residents of the region. Neighbors spied on each other and the area fostered the brother-against-brother attitude that the “War between the States” had created. The Lone Jack Civil War Museum features details about the localized battles, but also spends some time on the overall atmosphere of the time period.

Handguns were common weapons used by participants in the Civil War.

Pistols and Artifacts

Jackson County’s only Civil War museum would never have been built, if not for the interest of Harry Truman. As a child, his family would bring him to the annual commemorative picnic on the battlefield grounds. Throughout his political career he worked to get the site properly acknowledged. After his presidency, he returned to his home state to continue this important work. 101 years after the battle the newly completed museum would be dedicated. Unlike many larger museums, this one has to be judicious about what they display. For this reason, we found their exhibits to be in better than usual condition than what we have seen at other locations. Rifles and revolvers look fresh enough to fire.

Artistically designed dioramas show important scenes from events around the Civil War in Missouri.

Amazing Artistry

As we were touring the museum, we couldn’t help but notice a series of beautifully designed dioramas. Each one displays a different scene associated with battles or skirmishes from the region. A combination of sculpted figures and painted backgrounds, these pieces really stand out. Scenes from the two local battles are shown, as well as Quantrill’s Raid on Lawrence. The fourth diorama focuses on General Order #11, which caused the depopulation of four western Missouri counties. During this action, troops from Kansas killed six Lone Jack citizens as they were packing to leave.

Details in the dioramas show the skill of the artist.

Intricate Details

We tried to capture the detail of a couple of the dioramas. Staff at the museum were extremely proud of these cases, and we can understand why. Visiting the Battle of Lone Jack site has been on my list for quite some time. The location was first introduced to me by Hollywood. One of my all-time favorite movies is True Grit with John Wayne. For those familiar with it, you may recollect how Rooster Cogburn explains the loss of his eye. He tells the young Mattie Ross that he lost it in “a scrap outside of Kansas City”. That is how he referred to the Battle of Lone Jack. I’m sure many of you will want to watch that movie again to verify this factoid.

An exhibit shows the struggles faced by the innocent residents of the area in which skirmishes and battles were waged in western Missouri.

The Innocents

As with most battles and wars, the local residents are usually among the victims. Besides the threat of injury or death, there is the economic damages that often befall the area. Many times fields and homes were burned to keep them from falling into the hands of the enemy. In a region that was so hotly contested, the constant back and forth skirmishes created an atmosphere of unending fear.

The remaining portion of the Cave Hotel survived its use during the Battle of Lone Jack.

Union Base

Before we left Lone Jack, we crossed the street to the site of the Cave Hotel. The day before the battle, Union troops had taken over the building to use as a headquarters. During the battle, a portion of the original hotel was destroyed by fire. The section that remained was repaired, and it is obvious that the roof is lower than it would have originally been. Recently, the museum was able to purchase the building and plans to raise funds to repair it. We weren’t able to tour it, but just knowing that this building had been the epicenter of a battle that took place over 155 years ago is amazing. Our visit showed once again that there are amazing stories held in cities, towns, and villages all over our country. We just have to get out there and find them.


the authors signatures.

Like this article? How about sharing it with your friends!

Lone Jack Civil War Museum-civil war-battle-Union-Confederate-Bushwhackers-abolitionists-skirmish-Quantrill's Raid

12 thoughts on “True Grit At The Lone Jack Civil War Museum”

  1. Thank you for sharing. Far and away Virginian had the most engagements during the Civil War followed by Tennessee a distant second. A close third to Tennessee in the total number of engagements during the Civil War is Missouri. It was terrible for the citizens who could not avoid being caught up in the war with the Union soldiers (mostly from out of state who notoriously treated the citizens of Missouri of both political persuasions terrible; sometimes stealing, burning and killing alongside the jayhawkers as well as on their own), southern guerrilla’s and jayhawker’s continuously fighting that to this day there is still resistance to bringing out all of the facts related to circumstances experienced by the citizens of Missouri during the war. In doing research for a family history project I started reading about what was going on in the lives of my ancestors and was amazed at the circumstances that existed during the 1850’s in prelude to the war on the western side of the state and throughout the entire state during the 1860’s in Missouri. Thanks again.

  2. Enjoyed the article, I have never been there but plan to go someday. My GG Grandpa was there, was wounded and taken to a Jefferson City Hospital where after some time he died. Buried at Jefferson City National Cemetery. He was a Union Soldier from Clark Co., Mo. and they Marched (walked) all the way down here to get into a fight. He left a Pregnant Wife and a Daughter, wife had son after her husbands death. Those people at that time in history were sure nuff tuff….

  3. Thank you for this wonderful article regarding The Civil War – Battle of Lone Jack Museum from my hometown of Lone Jack, Missouri. As a child I visited this tiny museum several times, usually once a year during the annual commemorative celebration and parade which I rode my bicycle over 10 miles roundtrip to join the hometown parade down Bynum Road with paper streamers hanging from my handle bars and playing cards in the spokes of my tire wheels. I did remember the famous reference where Rooster Cogburn says in the old western movie, “True Grit” where he lost his eye, but I didn’t remember that Harry S. Truman, while President of the United States, was instrumental in the establishment of this Jackson County Museum. I can remember my grandparents from both sides telling me stories of traveling by horse and buggy for miles and what a special day it was to attend the Lone Jack Annual Picnic when they were children back in the very early 1900’s. Good childhood memories for me and this is a good little history museum to visit for those that live in or may be visiting the Kansas City area.

  4. Am curious as to whether you have ever checked out the historical Fort Osage (Sibley Mo) which was a fort that Lewis & Clark established on their trek westward. That is history beyond words. Osage Indians lived on this land. Have you checked out the town of Lexington Mo. Civil war history abounds

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top