When Chris Dukes began a basic archeological survey of the five-acre site near the intersection of Peace Church and Fountain roads north of Joplin, it was intended as an exercise in how the process is done.
“I wanted to go about it in a very systematic manner to prove that I can do the work,” says Dukes, who graduated from Missouri Southern in 2013. “But I didn’t expect to find anything.”
But the more than 50 artifacts he unearthed while working on his master’s degree in applied anthropology have helped to strengthen the narrative of what took place there more than 150 years ago – a brutal Civil War battle that rocked Jasper County.
Dukes returned to Missouri Southern this spring to present a program entitled “Unearthing the Past: The Discovery at Sherwood/Rader Farm Civil War Park.” He offered a PowerPoint presentation that explained his findings and how they affect the narrative of the battle. He was then joined by area historians for a roundtable discussion.
During two days in May of 1863, the severe brutality of the Civil War became painfully real to the soldiers and residents of western Jasper County. On May 18, members of the 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Regiment and the 2nd Kansas Volunteer Artillery Battery were foraging for food and loading wagons at the Rader farmhouse when they came under attack by 70 men led by Confederate guerrilla leader Thomas Livingston.
Eighteen soldiers were killed in the attack, with many of the bodies mutilated. The following day, Union reinforcements arrived and burned the Rader farm along with the village of Sherwood and other nearby communities.
“Western Jasper County was ripped apart,” says Brad Belk, director of the Joplin Museum Complex and president of the Sherwood/Rader Farm Civil War Park Inc. “It became a microcosm of what was going on during a horrible time in our history.