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

There were large numbers of Kansas troops in Ewing’s district in 1863. In fact, all the Kansas troops in Ewing’s district with the exception of one company were stationed in the four counties affected by Order No. 11; the great majority of Missouri troops in Ewing’s district were found in the counties not affected by Order No. 11. The order explicitly stated that the depopulation would be vigorously executed by officers commanding in the parts of the district affected by the orders. Thus, the argument that the enforcement was undertaken by Kansas troops is justified. In addition, the Kansas City Daily Journal of Commerce on 5 and 17 September reported other Kansas troops were sent into the district. The 19 Missouri companies in Ewing’s district could have been called upon to enforce the order, or Ewing could have asked for troops from Illinois, Colorado, or Iowa. But Ewing turned instead to Kansas troops to enforce his order. An answer to the question of why Ewing used Kansas troops might possibly solve the mystery of Lane’s satisfaction with Order No. 11. General Ewing set the stage for the brutal reprisals in his efforts to punish the guerrillas. In a report to Schofield, his commanding general, Ewing wrote, “No prisoners have been taken and none will be. All the houses in which Lawrence goods have been found have been destroyed, as well as all the houses of known guerrillas, wherever our troops have gone.” Thus Ewing, by ordering no prisoners taken and allowing the troops, most of whom were Kansans, to decide who was a guerrilla and what goods came from Lawrence, was giving a sense of legality to the revenge-seeking troopers.

Order No. 11 and its enforcement brought most of the press down on Ewing. According to the St. Louis Missouri Republican: “We do not know what reasons operated upon General Ewing to issue Order No. 11 … It is inhuman, unmanly, barbarous . . . It is a prelude as we take it, to a raid by Lane and Jennison, from Kansas, when everything that remains in those rich and populous counties is to be swept away and carried into Kansas.”9 The Lexington Union on 5 September wrote that a lieutenant returning from a scouting patrol in Jackson County said: “It would make a man’s heart melt though it were of stone to witness what I have seen.” He felt sorry for the “helpless women and children driven out by the cruel or- der.” The Union continued:

. . .we have seen these refugees passing through our streets, ill clad, often times barefooted, leaving their only shelter, and their only means of substance during the approaching winter-the crops now maturing-in numerous cases without money to buy food or pay rent going they know not whether. We have found ourselves asking: can it be possible, that this is the work of an officer wearing the uniform of our country?

On 22 September the New York Times in summing up the situation in Missouri reported:

. . .Missouri is today more dangerously disturbed if not more dangerously disloyal than Mississippi. More contempt for the army and the Government is daily poured forth there-more turbulence in talk and in action is indulged in-and human life is less safe than anywhere else within all the military lives of the United States.

Newspaper criticism of Ewing and Order No. 11 was not unanimous. The Journal of Commerce continuously backed both. It had supported Order No. 10 before the Lawrence raid and on 25 August, 1863, the day Order No. 11 was issued, it asked its readers to read the order as it was “unavoidable necessary.” On the following day, 26 August, 1863, the Journal of Commerce reported: “Our advice to every man who wishes to see peace ever restored to the border is to stand by General Ewing, and especially in the execution of Order, No. 11 . . .” On 4 September 1863, the Journal of Commerce attacked both the Lexington Union and the Missouri Republican which had found great fault in Order No. 11. Their criticism, the Commerce said, was due “to their ignorance of affairs on the Border,” and the Commerce writers pointed out that the St. Louis editors were complaining more than the Union people on the Border. Ewing and his order also gained support from the Union League of Kansas City and the Jackson County Union Association.10 Ewing was, therefore, criticized by many and praised by some. But his image would always be somewhat hazy-black to some, white to others. He would be judged then and later in regard to two questions: Did Order No. 11 stop guerrilla activity, and could the Order be justified as necessary in any sense of the word even if its purpose was accomplished?

Assuming Ewing’s objective was to stop the guerrillas by removing their families and friends, how well did the order accomplish its purpose?

Militarily, Ewing was backed by his commanding general. General Schofield drafted a similar order, also on 25 August, 1863, and wrote Ewing: “. . . I am pretty much convinced that the mode of carrying on the war on the border during the past two years has produced such a state of feeling that nothing short of total devastation of the districts which are made the haunts of guerrillas will be sufficient to put a stop to the evil . . .” Schofield understood that some loyal people would suffer. He sympathized, “The commanding general is aware that some innocent persons must suffer from these extreme measures, but such suffering is unavoidable, and will be made as light as possible.” On paper Schofield’s order was harsher than Ewing’s. Schofield’s order provided for the destruction of houses, barns, and personal property; Ewing’s included only hay and grain among those items to be destroyed. When Ewing’s order was enforced by Kansas troops, however, it evidenced all the harshness of Schofield’s and more. The important issue is that Schofield agreed that some type of order requiring the depopulation of the District of the Border was necessary.

The order was supported by Colonel Bazel F. Lazear, a member of Ewing’s force, in a letter to his wife, on 17 September. Although Ewing’s order was thought unjust and cruel by some, he thought it “one of the best orders that has been issued, and I think will have good effect.” He commented that the order would prove troublesome for only a few union people as most of them had already left the area.”11

The Journal of Commerce fully supported Order No. 11 when on 29 August, 1863, it editorialized that due to General Order No. 11 the families of the bushwhackers were leaving and that the bushwhackers themselves would soon follow. And on 1 September, 1863, the journal complimented the vigorous campaign carried on by Ewing’s troops and asked for the same energy to be applied in the future. Ewing’s order accomplished the military objectives, according to the Journal. Two months later on 7 November this same source observed that great changes had taken place on the border and that the farmers of southern Kansas now felt safe for the first time since the war began.

Major Wyllis C. Ransom, speaking at a farewell supper for the 10th Kansas stated that, “Upon our immediate Border, by the grace of God, with the assistance of General Ewing and General Orders No. 11 we have peace-peace which I trust may be permanent and lasting.”’12 Ransom believed, like many, that peace had come to the Border because of Order No. 11. Peace had come, in part, because of increased difficulty facing guerrilla operations. We must also take into consideration the fact that the guerrillas always went south in the winter, thus with or without the order they would have been relatively inactive at this time.

The effectiveness of the Order No. 11 can be seen in guerrilla leader William Gregg’s statement, “The country having been depopulated under General Ewing’s Order Number Eleven, the men were sorely tried for food, apples being the only edible thing found in Missouri after leaving Lafayette County, and the boys nearly starved. . .”13 Ewing’s hope that the guerrillas would not be able to live off the land is apparently confirmed by Gregg’s statement. Guerrilla scout John McCorkle reported that on re- turning to Missouri after the winter of 1864, the irregulars could not find food for man or horse in Cass County.14

There is little doubt that Order No. 11 was a severe blow to the guerrillas. It served, however, only to hinder their operations in the District of the Border. When they returned after the winter, they began their activities again in central rather than western Missouri. If Ewing’s intention was to stop the guerrillas from raiding Kansas and operating within his district, his order was effective.

President Abraham Lincoln could see the potential evils of such an order. He informed General Schofield:

. . with the matters of removing the inhabitants of certain counties en masse; and of removing certain individuals from time to time, who are supposed to be mischievous, I am not now interfering, but am leaving to your own discretion. . . But, in like manner, you will repress assumptions of unauthorized individuals to perform the same service; because under pretense of doing this, they become marauders and murderers themselves.15

President Lincoln perceived that the men performing such a service could be as destructive as the guerrillas; he believed the orders could be carried out by a military force. But the troops called upon to perform the service were the Kansans, who carried out their orders with hatred and a burning desire for revenge. Albert Castel wrote in 1963: “In fact, with the exception of the hysteria-motivated herding of Japanese-Americans into concentration camps during World War II, it stands as the harshest treatment ever imposed on United States citizens under the plea of military necessity in our nation’s history.16 Col. B. F. Lazear who supported Ewing’s action observed in a letter to his wife, 10 September, 1863, that: “It is heart sickening to see what I have seen since I have been back here. A desolated country of women and children, some of them almost naked. Some on foot and some in old wagons. Oh, God.”17 Many Missourians were not happy with the hardships placed on some of their population by Order No. 11. John McCorkle observed that the people were banished and robbed by the same order and that so much was stolen that they had little to move.

Continued in Part III

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