History lives

Camden Point commemorates 150th anniversary of Civil War battle

The sound of a cannon blast rang out, forcing Eric Martinez to take pause in the moment. 

A member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, Martinez donates a lot of his free time to reenactments and special ceremonies. The chance to participate in the Battle of Camden Point’s 150th anniversary remembrance proved especially poignant. The monument and six graves dedicated to Confederate soldiers killed just down the road fascinated Martinez during his childhood in this rural Platte County community. That added personal importance to this particular event. “It was a like a religious moment,” Martinez said. “This is home. The same reason those men are dead there. They were just fighting for their homes. Same reason (I’m here), just a little different timeframe.” More than a dozen re-enactors, including Martinez’s son Jacob, came Saturday to Pleasant Grove Cemetary to share the story of a smaller Civil War battle in conjunction with Camden Point’s annual Freedom Festival. A small, white stone obelisk stands in the middle of six marked graves on the front of a hill located just off Route EE — the second oldest Confederate memorial located west of the Mississippi River. Two of the soldiers buried there, including one officer, were killed as part of a small skirmish on July 13, 1864 between advancing Union troops and a small contingent of Confederates encamped in Camden Point. Four more were later executed. In 1871, the town opted to move the remains to their current site at Pleasant Grove and place a marker there. The headstones were added in 2000, and because records didn’t exist for which body had been placed in what spot, Lt. Alamarine Hardin’s marker went at the far left with Pvts. Richard Alvis, Jasper Clements, Robert McCormick, Jesse Myles and Andrew Smith to his right in alphabetical order. The Camden Point Baptist Church, whose members spend time caring for the small cemetery plot, also recently installed a historical marker at the entrance to help keep record of this event despite the negative perception of honoring Confederate history. “They are our veterans, Missouri veterans, and they fought for protecting their families and their community,” said Matthew Silber, a member of the Platte County Historical Society who helped organize Saturday’s memorial service. “And a lot of people sacrificed everything for family and community. Those are values the same as today. We care about our families and our community, so that’s what we’re honoring: men and women and children who gave up everything.” Four of the re-enactors, including Jacob Martinez, led a processional to the monument at the start of the ceremony, placing a Camden Point Battle Flag replica, Confederate Flag, Camden Point flag and United States flag near the monument. Silber gave a brief history of the event based on his research, and a bio of each Confederate soldier killed was read aloud. The culmination came with a six-gun salute and the booming cannon blast in the deceased’s memory. “In the end, it is the men we honor today,” keynote speaker James L. Speicher, who spent 31 years in the U.S. Army, said during his address to the small assembled crowd. The Battle of Camden Point involved between 500 and 700 soldiers. Only one Union soldier died during the skirmish. After the executions and burning parts of Camden Point, the federalists advanced on to Platte City and burnt the town for a second time during the Civil War. Stories like these exist for many small communities in the state. The oldest Confederate memorial in the state resides in Lone Jack, and many in this area have family ties to the involved soldiers. According to Eric Martinez, his great-great grandfather — a guerilla fighter during the Civil War — passed through Camden Point the day before the battle remembered in Saturday’s ceremony. “A lot of people are under the misconception the majority of the war was back east — Georgia and Virginia,” Eric Martinez said. “The war out here was a different kind of war. It started in at least 1854 and it had gone on. It was dirty fighting. “What it was out here were neighbors, brothers, families fighting each other.” Silber also grew up in Camden Point and his experiences as a youth near Pleasant Grove Cemetery helped spur his interest in history. He continues to spend time learning about this area and recently helped publish “Platte County’s History Illustrated,” which contains his original artwork. Although through his efforts and those of many others, the Battle of Camden Point’s story came to life Saturday, but there’s always another chapter out there. “Being a young boy, you’re fascinated by war, and you don’t really understand until you’re older the horror of it,” Silber said. “There’s a lifetime of learning all the stories of people that have gone on before.” That could include even more details about the men buried at Pleasant Grove Cemetery, a unique chapter in Platte County’s history not likely to be forgotten.