General Order, No. 11: The Forced Evacuation of Civilians During the Civil War – Part I

Were such an edict issued by the Czar of Russia, towards any part of Poland, it would stamp him with infamy before the civilized world. Such, we believe, will be the verdict of history in regard to this order. Lexington Weekly Union (Mo.), 5 September 1863.

AT approximately five o’clock the morning of 21 August 1863, guerrilla leader William Clarke Quantrill and 450 men attacked the sleeping town of Lawrence, Kansas. After gaining control of the town, the guerrillas began their grisly task of looting, murder, and arson. Quantrill had ordered his men to kill every man big enough to carry a gun, and his orders were obeyed. Within four hours the guerrillas had killed approximately 150 unarmed men and had left 80 widows and 250 orphans. Most of the stores and banks of Lawrence had been robbed; 185 buildings, including one-fourth of the town’s private residences, had been destroyed. This was guerrilla warfare at its ugliest.

Following the raid on Lawrence, Quantrill and his guerrillas fled to the supposed safety of the Missouri border counties. Here the guerrillas di vided into smaller groups and headed for hiding places hoping to make their detection unlikely. The raid on Lawrence placed great pressure on the commanding general of the district, General Thomas Ewing, Jr. Ewing found himself faced both with the problem of tracking down the bush whackers and protecting Kansas from future raids and with the far more serious and immediate problem of keeping vengeful Kansans out of Missouri.

Quantrill’s forces had crossed into Missouri near Morristown, Missouri; it was here that United States Senator (Kansas) James Lane and Thomas Ewing met the night of August 22, 1863 and drew up Order No. 11.

General Orders, No. 11 of 25 August 1863, has been considered one of the cruelest and most unusual orders issued by a general during the Civil War. This order banished from four Missouri counties most inhabitants regardless of their sympathies. The only exceptions were that people living within one mile of a military post could remain, and those persons who could establish their loyalty could move to any military post or into Kansas except for the counties on the eastern border of that state.1 The four counties – Jackson, Bates, Cass, and the upper section of Vernon – were located in western Missouri, a state that remained in the Union. In Bates County, which did not have a military post, the entire population had to leave. The homes of 20,000 people were looted and burned, and their crops were confiscated or destroyed. In the 15 days allowed before they would be forcibly removed, they had too little time, too little money, and too little transportation to save many of their belongings.

Many saw the order as an act of vengeance, to punish the guerrillas for the “Sack of Lawrence,” The Lexington Union of September 5, 1863 asked, “Is this order designed to avenge this atrocity? Does a just government take vengeance for crime upon the innocent and helpless?” On September 1, 1863 the Daily Dispatch of Richmond, Virginia stated, “Quantrill’s raid upon Lawrence, Kansas, seems to have provoked a war of extermination against the people of Northern Missouri.”

In reality Order No. 11 was not issued as a punitive measure for the sack of Lawrence. As the Kansas City, Missouri Journal of Commerce of September 3, 1863 stated: “The Lawrence massacre was its occasion, not its cause.” The evacuation policy was apparently already in Ewing’s mind. The Official Records provide evidence that Order No. 10, issued 18 August 1863, three days before the raid, was similar in policy to Order No. 11; according to Order No. 10 families of known Southern Sympathizers were to be removed. Ewing wrote Colonel C. W. Marsh on 3 August 1863 that he believed the only possible way to curtail guerrilla activity was to remove the guerrillas and their families. Ewing’s action was an expansion of Order No. 10 but much harsher.

This study seeks to answer two questions: Was Order No. 11 effective and was it necessary?

One explanation offered for the order suggests its purpose was to assure the people of Kansas that they would be protected against future raids. Another reason for the Order was to curtail any attempt by Kansas to launch a raid of vengeance on Missouri. There seemed to be no doubt in the minds of most Missourians that such a raid would be forthcoming. Missourians who read Jim Lane’s speech which appeared in Missouri newspapers had a right to be frightened. Lane threatened as reported in the Daily Missouri Democrat (St. Louis) of 1 September 1863:

I will tell you what I want to see. I want to see every foot of ground in Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties burned over everything laid waste. Then we shall have no further trouble. The bushwhackers cannot remain in the country, for they will have nobody to feed them nobody to harbor them nobody to provide them with transportation no place to sleep in, and will have thirty-five miles further to march before they reach Kansas.

Lane then offered the following resolution to the people of Leavenworth which was unanimously adopted: “Resolved. That so many of the loyal men of the border as can be spared from home protection, be requested to assemble at Paola on the 8th day of September, with such arms and ammunition as they can procure Lane also told General John M. Schofield that he was going to “lay waste to the border counties of Missouri and exterminate the disloyal people.”2

On 3 September the White Cloud Kansas Chief (Troy), as well as other Kansas papers, asked that all citizens of Kansas who wished to assist in clearing out the Missouri bush whackers meet at Paola on 8 September.

General Schofield informed General Henry W. Halleck that Lane would not be permitted to enter Missouri. The Daily Missouri Republican on 6 September declared: “If Jim Lane attempts it, as he has threatened to do, Federal bayonets will protect the integrity of our soil.” But Missourians were frightened. The Neve Anzeiger des Westens (St. Louis), as reported in the Lexington Daily Union (Missouri) on 5 September described the people of Missouri as filled with terror and predicted that if Kansans, led by Lane, invaded Missouri, the Missourians could expect murder, plunder, robbery, slaughter, and “burning butchery.” To add to the Missourians’ fears the notorious Col. Charles Jennison, the most vicious and feared of the Kansas Jayhawkers, was given authority to recruit men into Union service.

Many border cities, hoping to escape retaliation from the Kansans, collected money for Lawrence 3. The Daily Missouri Democrat on 27 August reported that in Platte County 50 men gave from one to 10 dollars each in hopes of escaping the anticipated raid. Weston, Missouri gave 200 dollars to Lawrence. The Kansas City Journal of Commerce, which strongly supported the order, told its readers on 26 August that the order might satisfy the people of Kansas and save Missouri from a raid by Kansans. Ewing believed, or perhaps simply hoped, that this order, if enforced, might satisfy the Kansans. He was not going to allow a mass march on Missouri by Kansans as indicated by his correspondence with Schofield, 26 August, and 27 August, 1863.

Historian Albert Castel has pointed to a fourth Ewing motive which was both personal and political. The massacre took place in Ewing’s home state and among his friends. Thus a great deal of the blame for the raid was placed on his shoulders by his political enemies.4 The White Cloud Chief on 27 August announced: “If for every curse that has been be- stowed upon Ewing in Kansas, since Friday last, were [sic] a dollar there would be sufficient to rebuild Lawrence more substantially than ever, and to make every man in the state rich.” Kansas Governor Thomas Carney informed Schofield that many influential citizens of Kansas were against Ewing.5 General Frank Preston Blair, a Missourian, in a fiery speech in St. Louis called the desolation of Western Missouri a game between Ewing and Lane for the Senate seat of Kansas.6

Still another factor in the issuance of the order, it appears, was the pressure which Lane had brought to bear on Ewing. Ewing as a politician realized that Lane was the political leader in Kansas and that his own future could be brightened by acceding to Lane’s wishes. When the two men met at Morristown on 22 August 1863, William Mowdry, a Union officer who was present, reported that Lane told Ewing he would have him removed as soon as he could get to Washington. Ewing then begged Lane’s forgiveness, and Lane agreed to save Ewing if he would issue the order. After writing the order, Mowdry allegedly heard Lane say to Ewing, “You are a dead dog if you fail to issue that order as agreed between us.”7

Accepting the fact that the two men, met, an unanswered question remains. Why would Jim Lane, whose home and possessions were destroyed in the “Sack of Lawrence,” a man who screamed for blood and fire, be satisfied by a purely military order of orderly depopulation of a section of Missouri. Historian Richard Brownlee wrote, “Is it possible then, that Jim Lane would ever have accepted the order as a remedy unless there was an additional unwritten provision to it which he demanded and to which Ewing agreed?” Brownlee thought there was a bargain that the order would be “enforced by federalized Kansas troops. …”8 It should be pointed out that it was after the Lane- Ewing meeting that Lane stated that he wished to see the district burned and destroyed and the disloyal people exterminated.

Continued in Part II

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