One might think that the title of this column is a contradiction of words, but it is not. During the Civil War there was a certain civility in the correspondence that described the “barbarous warfare” that was conducted by both the Union and Confederate forces. This and the command of the English language were especially evident in the letters between the Union and Confederate “generals.”

The following letter from “Union” Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck to Confederate Gen. Sterling Price, although very civil in nature, clearly states exactly what Gen. Halleck will do and why he is doing it.

The letter is located in Series I, Volume 8 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion on pages 514 and 515.

“St. Louis, Mo., Jan. 22, 1862.

Gen. Sterling Price, Commanding:

General: Your letter, dated Springfield, Jan. 12, is received. The troops of which you complain on the Kansas frontier and at Fort Leavenworth are not under my command. In regard to them, I respectfully refer you to Maj. Gen. David Hunter, commanding the Department of Kansas, headquarters at Fort Leavenworth.

You also complain that “individuals and parties of men specially appointed and instructed by you to destroy railroads, culverts and bridges, by tearing them up and burning, and have been arrested and subjected to a general court-martial for alleged crimes.”

This statement is, in the main, correct. When “individuals and parties of men” violate the “laws of war,” they will be tried, and if found guilty, will certainly be punished, whether acting under your “special appointment and instructions” or not. You must be aware, general, that no orders of yours can save you from punishment spies, marauders, robbers, incendiaries, guerrilla bands and those who violate the “laws of war.”

You cannot give immunity to crime. But let us fully understand each other on this point.

If you send armed forces, wearing the garb (uniforms) of soldiers and duly organized and enrolled as legitimate belligerents to destroy railroads and bridges as a military act, we shall kill them, if possible, in open warefare, or if we capture them, we shall treat them as prisoners of war.

But it is well understood that you have sent numbers of your adherents, in the garb (clothes) of peaceful citizens and under false pretenses, through our lines into northern Missouri to rob and destroy the property of “Union” men and to burn and destroy railroad bridges, thus endangering the lives of thousands and this, too, without any military necessity or possible military advantage.

Moreover, peaceful citizens of Missouri, quietly working on their farms, have been instigated by your emissaries to take up arms as insurgents and to rob and plunder and to commit arson and murder. They do not even act under the garb of soldiers but under false pretenses and in the guise of peaceful citizens.

You certainly will not pretend that men guilty of such crimes, although “specially appointed and instructed by you,” are entitled to the rights and immunities of ordinary prisoners of war. If you do, will you refer me to a single authority on the laws of war which recognizes such a claim?

You may rest assured, general, that all prisoners of war not guilty of a crime will be treated with proper consideration and kindness. With the exception of being properly confined, they will be lodged and fed and, where necessary, clothed, the same as our own troops.

I am sorry to say that our prisoners who have come from your camps do not report such treatment on your part. They say that you gave them no rations, no clothing, no blankets, but left them to perish with want and cold. Moreover, it is believed that you subsist your troops by robbing and plundering the non-combatant “Union” inhabitants of the southwestern counties of this state. Thousands of poor families have fled to us for protection and support. They say that your troops robbed them of their provisions and clothing, carrying away their shoes and bedding and even cutting cloth from their looms, and that you have driven women and children from their homes to starve and perish in the cold.

I have not retaliated with such conduct upon your adherents here, as I have no intention of waging such a “barbarous warfare;” but I shall, whenever I can, punish such crimes, by whomsoever they may be committed.

I am daily expecting instructions respecting an exchange of prisoners of war. I will communicate with you on that subject as soon as they are received.

Very respectfully, your obedient servant,

H.W. Halleck

Maj. Gen., Commanding the Department of the Missouri.

Now then, did Gen. Price ever respond to Gen. Halleck’s letter? If he did, it did not survive the passage of time or has not been discovered to date. Did this letter change the “barbarous warfare” that was conducted in Missouri and eastern Kansas for the duration of the war to a more civilized way of waging war? Of course, it did not; and, of course, the war went on!

 

During the American Civil War, the paths of a northern-born, pro-Southern Confederate officer and a German born Union officer had briefly met in the south-central Missouri area of Waynesville in Pulaski County. Both of these men would never become famous names in the war, but both men survived the war and were each fascinating in their own way.

Missouri German Joseph A. Eppstein

Colonel Joseph A. Eppstein made a record as a citizen and soldier, which any American can read with pride and satisfaction. He was born in Germany, Jan. 1, 1824, and was 14 years of age when the family came to America. In 1843, he went to St. Louis and was employed in a store in that city until 1847. In February of that year, he enlisted in Company C, 3rd Missouri Mounted Rifles, in which he was made sergeant, and served for nearly two years, until October 1848.

After the expiration of his war service that led him to Mexico City with General Winfield Scott’s conquering forces, he returned to St. Louis and in August 1849, was given charge of a store, which he conducted until 1850, and then returned to Boonville. He engaged in the mercantile business with his brother Viet Eppstein until 1860, when he purchased his brother’s interest.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, he at once organized a company of 135, every one of whom with a single exception was of German birth or ancestry. This company was known as the “Boonville Corps”. He then organized a battalion and a company of cavalry, but these were only for local service. He later organized the 6th Battalion Missouri State Guards, and after that a number of companies, both cavalry and infantry.

From March 24, 1862 to January 1863, by a special law of Congress, passed because of a general dissatisfaction among the home guards all over the state, Lieutenant-Colonel Eppstein’s battalion was reorganized, and became part of the Missouri State Militia forming the 13th Regiment MSM Cavalry under the command of Colonel Albert Sigel, brother of Union General Franz Sigel. Further consolidation of troops into four companies’ occurred which designated the 13th Regiment into the 5th Regiment MSM Cavalry, which was then ordered to Waynesville, MO. in the Rolla District.

William Osborne Coleman, Northern Southerner

William Osborne Coleman was born on January 12, 1837 around Elmira, New York. He ran away from home at age 10 and stole aboard a ship bound for Vera Cruz and the Mexican War where was wounded at Churubusco. In 1855, he moved to Kansas and participated in the border wars along the Missouri-Kansas border, siding with the pro-slavery factions.

Coleman eventually moved to Rolla Missouri where he married and with the outbreak of the Civil War, commanded a company of Missouri State Guard, which was scattered when Union Colonel Franz Sigel occupied Rolla. He joined with the Seventh Division Missouri State Guard and elected First Lieutenant. Coleman fought at many of the early battles in Missouri such as Wilson’s Creek (August 10, 1861) and the First Battle of Lexington (September 20, 1861). CSA General Sterling Price gave a commission to Coleman and he was tasked with raising a cavalry regiment in central Missouri.

Coleman was appointed Colonel by CSA Brigadier General Thomas C. Hindman on June 18, 1862 Coleman’s command was assigned to James H. McBride’s District of North Arkansas, which he did not want. A Rift occurred over the summer between McBride and Coleman. General Hindman ordered Coleman to report to McBride and dismount his regiment. Coleman refused and he was arrested on July 31, 1862 and deprived of command.

Coleman returned to Missouri and organized guerrilla bands against Federal forces until January 1, 1864 when General E. Kirby Smith released him from arrest and Coleman organized the Forty-sixth Arkansas Mounted Infantry Regiment, but quickly relinquished command and returned to Missouri where his regiment joined Sterling Price’s 1864 Missouri Raid.

The following report was given by Colonel Eppstein in 1862 while Coleman was operating with the Fourth Cavalry Regiment conducting partisan actions against Union forces in Missouri around Waynesville.

JULY 6-8, 1862.-Scout from Waynesville to the Big Piney, Mo.
Report of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph A. Eppstein, Thirteenth Missouri Cavalry (Militia).
HDQRS. THIRTEENTH CAVALRY MO. STATE MILITIA, Waynesville, Mo., July 9, 1862.

COLONEL: In pursuance of Special Orders, Numbers 12, from these headquarters, dated Waynesville, July 6, 1862, I started with 30 men of Companies B and F, under Lieutenants Ellington and Brown, to Wayman’s Mill, on Spring Creek, 12 miles from here, where I was informed that a company of Coleman’s men were encamped, about 20 miles from that place on the Big Piney. I immediately left in that direction, and on my way learned that Coleman had taken possession of Houston the day before and was running north toward the Springfield road, a statement which I disbelieved. Reports of the whereabouts and strength (from 100 to 400) of the company above mentioned was so contradictory, that I did not know how to operate until I came to Johnston’s Mill, about 30 miles from this place, on the Big Piney, where I succeeded in arresting one of Coleman’s men, who told me that he had left camp an hour previous and was on his way home. His father, who is also a rebel and belongs to the same gang, lives about 10 miles farther on. I compelled him by threats to go with me as guide to the camp, which I certainly could not have found without his assistance.

I started from Johnston’s Mill at sundown on the 7th instant, and at 8.30 p. m. arrived at another mill, where I ordered my men to dismount, leaving the horses in charge of 10 men as guards. From that place, I marched with the balance of my force (20 men, with officers) about a quarter of a mile up the road, thence through a dry creek, following the same for about 300 yards. Half an hour was lost in trying to ascertain the exact whereabouts of the camp, until I suddenly was hailed to halt. I made no reply to their sentinel, but pushed slowly forward until I found myself obstructed by a deep, stagnant creek, which could not be forded. I ordered my men to follow me around until I came to a shallower place; we crossed. On climbing up the rock on the other side, we found the enemy alarmed and formed in line 12 yards in front of us. I ordered them to surrender, but was greeted by several volleys of musketry. It was only then that my men commenced firing, having previously been instructed by me to save their ammunition, and after a few rounds I ordered them to “Charge bayonets,” which was immediately and gallantly executed. The enemy could not stand the charge, and broke in every direction in their shirttails, leaving behind them coats, pants, boots, and hats.

Owing to the darkness of the night and the thickness of the brush, I could not pursue them, and hearing of the proximity of another force of Coleman’s men, was apprehensive of the safety of my little force, and returned after having reconnoitered the ground. I found 4 dead bodies, 1 wounded man, several horses killed, and a lot of clothing and camp equipage strewn in every direction. Considering the proximity of our firing, I judge that many more rebels were wounded, but succeeded in escaping. Bradford, the prisoner and guide, tried to escape during our charge, but was run through with a bayonet. He was left wounded on the field, but I ordered a neighbor to his assistance. But one of our men was slightly wounded by a buck-shot, as the volleys of the enemy went over our heads.

I captured 3 prisoners, 10 horses, 8 saddles, and 5 guns. The camp equipage was destroyed, as we had no means to take it along. The names of the prisoners are William Hamilton, George Logan, and James Ormsby, all of Company A, Coleman’s battalion.

One of the prisoners stated that Coleman had left Arkansas with about 600 men, but that he had recruited his force since that time to about 800 to 900 men in the adjoining counties; a statement which I fully believe.

Very respectfully, yours,

JOSEPH A. EPPSTEIN,

Lieutenant Colonel, Thirteenth Cavalry, Missouri State Militia.

Both men survived the war and went on to lead normal, everyday lives, but early on in the war, fate brought these two soldiers together in a way they would have never imagined.

Joseph Eppstein eventually became the commander of the Missouri State Militia and served until the close of the war. He followed merchandising after the war until 1878, when he was appointed postmaster of Boonville and served until his death in 1885. He died on March 4, 1886 in Cooper County MO. and is buried in St Peter and Paul Cemetery in Boonville, MO.

When the war ended in 1865, William Coleman was paroled in Jacksonport AR. He moved to Texas but eventually settled in Detroit, Dade County Florida where he died on June 30, 1921 and is buried in City Cemetery, Miami FL.

Winter during the Civil War was particularly trying and monotonous for the armies. The winter months presented impassable, muddy roads and harsh weather which precluded active operations. Disease ran rampant during the winter months, killing more men than battles. But with all of its hardships winter also allowed soldiers an opportunity to bond, have a bit of fun, and enjoy their more permanent camps. Through these bleak months all soldiers, Union and Confederate, had to keep warm and busy in order to survive. However, in the winter of 1862-1863, the “Union” Army of the Southwest, commanded by Maj. Gen. Samuel Ryan Curtis, was on the march and campaigning in Northwest Arkansas. As part of that army, the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry Regiment was far away from its former headquarters in Fort Scott and 1st Sergeant, soon-to-be 2nd Lt. Charles W. Porter recorded the following entries in his journal. His original journal is owned by the Wisconsin State Historical Society and a transcribed copy is located in the manuscript collection of Fort Scott National Historic Site and an edited version has been published by the Bushwhacker Museum in Nevada, Mo.

Dec. 31, 1862

At daylight we were again on the road. We had a cold and uncomfortable night and but little sleep as we had no tents with us. The ground was frozen enough to bear a horse and rider. Our march today was by the Boston Mountains and across the same streams we met with on our march to Van Buren. We did not see the sun until 10 o’ clock a.m. on account of the mountain heights. These mountains are in many respects sublime in appearance. They are quite rocky, some of the rocks have a perpendicular height of 100 feet or more, while many are shelving and ragged, covered with pine and cedar besides other kinds of trees.

Fred A. Copeland of our company lost his horse and was obliged to appropriate a donkey for his use. The only way he could keep the lazy beast up with the company was to put an ear of corn on the end of a cane stalk and hold it in front of the animal, when he would hasten to overtake it. The boys gave Fred the name of “Barlarn,” a name he did not fancy and in order to get rid of the accursed name he disposed of the beast on arriving at camp. After a march of 30 miles today, we arrived at our old camp at Rheas Mills at a little before sunset.

Thursday, Jan. 1, 1863

A new year has dawned upon us and with it the war is still in progress. I set about to enjoy the day as my limited means would admit. I took a few drinks of brandy to stimulate my exertions. I procured some canned peaches and oysters at the sutlers (a portable “civilian general store” that traveled with the army in a privately owned wagon or wagons) and soon surprised the vacancies of the inner man. During the day, I received my commission as 2nd Lieutenant of Co. F, 3rd Regt. Wisconsin Cavalry and the consequence was I was elected to do some treating. Many of the boys in and about our Regiment partook freely of “Coffin Varnish” (homemade whiskey) and many rows occurred during the day. I was with my companions until a late hour and a jolly carouse we had. The day was cloudy, windy and with some sleet. At dark we had marching orders for the morrow.

Friday, Jan. 2, 1863

It rained nearly all night. Early this morning, the reveille called us forth to our morning duties and prepare for another move. Our company was detailed to take charge of a herd of government cattle and proceed to Fayetteville, the county seat of Washington County, Ark. At 10 o’clock a.m., we started and passed over some nice country and saw some good farms. After marching 18 miles, we arrived at Fayetteville at 8 o’clock p.m. The place has the appearance of once being in a flourishing and quite prosperous condition. But, war had done its work of devastation in the business portion, as Confederate Gen. McCulloch had burnt it. Orderly Sgt. E.M. Cooper and myself fortunately found a place of comfort for the night with a family. We had a good, warm supper and a nice bed on the floor before the fire. Today was pleasant.

Saturday, Jan. 3, 1863.

I was up quite early this morning, after a good sound sleep. Our hostess provided us with a good breakfast. At 10 o’clock a.m., we were ordered to take our stock (cattle) to Elm Springs and we immediately moved forward in a northerly course through some beautiful farm country and good timber. After marching 12 miles, we arrived at Elm Springs an hour before sunset and camped. This place has but few buildings and a large flour mill. Our entire force camped here tonight. Today was pleasant.

Sunday, Jan. 4, 1863

I assisted Stephen Wheeler to make out our company payrolls today as the last rolls we made out were not correct. It was therefore necessary to make out new ones. Today was clear and chilly.

Monday, Jan. 5, 1863

I did not feel well today so I did not do any duty. Brother Walworth was sick in bed today and unfit for duty. Nothing unusual in camp. Today was cloudy and chilly.

Tuesday Jan. 6, 1863

I was confined in my tent with sore eyes today. Brother Walworth is better. There is no exciting news with us today. All quiet in and about us at this time. Today was very cool.

Wednesday, Jan. 7, 1863

This forenoon, our forces here were preparing for a review in the afternoon when we passed in review by Maj. Gen. Schofield, our department commander. Infantry, Artillery and Cavalry, in order, marched in a continual line until sunset, when the last column passed the general’s notice. Tonight, the officers had a grand dance and superb supper in honor of our Gen. Schofield. During the early part of the evening, some drunken soldiers stoned the building where the dancing was. Gen. Schofield was hit on the head disqualifying him somewhat from enjoying the entertainment. I learn that the perpetrators of this foul act were of a Kansas Regiment. There were a number of others hit at the time, but no one was seriously hurt. I was ordered with my Company to guard the locality against further assault.

At supper, I was provided with plenty of green peas, hot biscuits and butter, cakes and pie. Well, I soon struck a business-like attitude and these fine rations soon vanished from the dishes that were provided for their reception to a place long since deprived of these luxuries. Today was very cool. I was on duty all night.

Thursday, Jan. 8, 1863

I took a little sleep this morning and got up for breakfast. My eyes continue to be very sore, so I did not do much duty today. Orderly (Sgt.) Cooper had cause to tie James G. Winter s of our company to a fence with his hands tied behind him, drunkenness and disorderly conduct was the cause. Today was pleasant but cool.

Friday, Jan. 9, 1863

There was nothing unusual with us today. Tonight some troops left camp. I did not learn where they were going. We had orders to be ready to march in the morning. Today was cool, but pleasant.

Saturday, Jan. 10, 1863

The order of last evening was countermanded (canceled), so we remain in camp. A large (wagon) train with refugees and a large number of Negroes left camp this morning for Fort Scott, Kan. Men, women and children, white and black, made up the freight of the train. Today was pleasant.”

Now then, 2nd Lt. Porter, his company and the balance of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry remained on campaign until they returned to Fort Scott in the spring of 1863. As these journal entries indicate “campaigning” did not always include combat. Although a variety of happenings indicate that this campaign was not dull for 1st Sgt. Porter, who received his promotion to 2nd Lieutenant and eventually reached the rank of captain as the war went on.