In the midst of Kansas City’s Union Cemetery lies a single stone obelisk, memorializing the lives of fifteen men born as Americans, who fought as Confederates, and who died as prisoners. This Union Confederate Monument, as it was titled, was built in 1911 by the federal government, and memorializes the 15 Confederate soldiers who died as prisoners of war during the Battle of Westport. The final large-scale assault by the Confederates west of the Mississippi, the Union’s successful defense of the city on October 23, 1864 finally solidified federal control of the state as a whole, and put an end to Southern efforts in the west permanently.
As Confederate Major General Sterling Price began to retreat southward along with his men, not every soldier was able to make it out of the city successfully. While nearly twenty percent of the Southern forces were killed or wounded during the battle, the fifteen memorialized by the Monument were captured and made prisoners of war. All fifteen would eventually die in captivity, and their remains would be interred in Union Cemetery, although their true location is currently unknown. As a result, the federal government chose to build this obelisk of granite and place it amongst the gravestones of the cemetery, along with two bronze plaques listing the names of the men memorialized there.
Today, the Union Confederate Monument Site is just a small piece of Union Cemetery, which, while not officially a part of the National Cemetery System, also serves as the final resting place for a number of veterans. While it may seem strange that a cemetery contains a memorial to enemy POWs, the presence of a structure like this speaks to the efforts that the federal government was willing to honor the deaths of Americans, even those who were fighting against the nation itself.