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.

President Jefferson Davis proclaimed his strategy to be one of “offensive-defensive.” The strategy in fact was one of defending all resources, stockpiling supplies and taking the offensive when the supply situation warranted or the opportunity was provided by the enemy. With the exception of a few notable offensive forays his strategy would evolve into one of passive defense. Whether intentional or not President Davis, with his statement on strategy, acknowledged two of the eminent military theorists of the nineteenth century. There can be no doubt that Prussian General Carl Von  or French General Antoine Jomini would not have endorsed the evolved defensive strategy of the Confederacy. They agreed that a passive defense was doomed to defeat.

Graduates of West Point and V.M.I. in the early and mid-nineteenth century would not have been familiar with Clausewitz’s great work “On War” as it was not translated into English until after the Civil War. Jomini’s works were translated prior to the war and some if not all of the graduates should have been familiar with his theories. Many of the theories of Clausewitz and Jomini originate from the Napoleonic Wars and we know for a fact the graduates were familiar with Napoleon. Jomini is considered the offensive minded of the two theorists though it is definite that he concurs with Clausewitz that offense must emanate from solid defense.

Clausewitz emphasized that military success would be measured by, “the political object of the war.” The South’s political objective was independence. Militarily this goal did not require the total defeat of Union forces or the occupation of large areas of Northern territory. The North’s political goal was the preservation of the Union. This goal did require the total defeat of Confederate forces and the occupation of large areas of the South. At the onset of hostilities Confederate Secretary of War, George Wythe Randolph, wrote, “There is no instance in history of a people as numerous as we inhabiting a country as extensive as ours being subjected if true to themselves.” The North’s ambitious political goal and the vast land area of the South, suggest a defensive strategy of Jomini’s, which has been labeled the space and time defense.

In the space and time strategy the defending forces will execute a retrograde movement drawing the attacking forces with them. The mission of this movement is to continually lengthen the attacking forces lines of communications. In the military sense time means the simultaneous movement or attack of two or more forces in two or more separate locations. The defender will employ simultaneous raids or attacks against the attacker’s line of communications. The initial mission of these raids and attacks would be to disrupt these lines but not to cut them. The goal of the defender is to force the attacker to guard as much of his lines of communications as possible, thereby reducing the man power of the main attacking force. This strategy does not call for large armies such as the Army of Northern Virginia or the Army of Tennessee. If the defending commander had 40,000 troops, his dispositions could be 25,000 in the main defensive force, with the remainder being allotted to three or even four raiding units.

In order to employ the time and space strategy effectively are there requirements that must be met. The area of operations must be large. With the exception of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia in 1812, the South was the largest field of continuous operations to date. The ground within the area of operations must be defensible. The South’s topography, with its mountain ranges, rivers, wide streams, heavily wooded areas, swamps and marshes, was conducive to defense. The commanders of the raiding units must be intrepid and innovative. The commander of the main defensive force must be well versed in maneuver and defensive tactics. The Confederacy had officers that would have excelled in this strategy. Perhaps the most important and most necessary factor to this strategy lies with the civilian population. The strategy does not call for the active participation of the civilians in the military aspect. Loss of home territory, whether by force or by the strategy employed, can adversely influence the morale on the home front. Resistance to the loss of morale and passive resistance to the attacker are crucial to the success of the space and time strategy. The spirit and determination of the Confederacy’s civilians made up for many military deficiencies that the South suffered. This spirit and determination would have been fully sufficient for the employment of the space and time strategy.

Effective space and time defensive

An example of how effective the space and time defensive strategy could have been during the Civil War is William T. Sherman’s Atlanta campaign. Sherman’s forces were totally dependent on the Western and Atlantic railroad. As General Joseph E. Johnston’s forces retreated towards Atlanta they took or used all the forage and supplies along their line of march, forcing Sherman to be even more dependent on his one railroad. No one was more aware of his precarious lines of communication than General Sherman. At the start of his campaign he had assigned no less than 20,000 troops to defend this single railroad line. On May 5, as the Army of the Tennessee prepared to move through Snake Creek Gap, Sherman stressed to McPherson, “Strike hard as it may save us what we have most reason to apprehend, a slow pursuit, in which he gains strength as we lose it.” Sherman may have been referring to the possible reinforcement of Johnston and the prepared defensive fortifications ahead of which the Confederates would surely make use. The weakening of his own forces could only have come from attrition, as reinforcements were readily available. In any movement that a force undertakes attrition is a natural occurrence. The remedy for this natural attrition is found in the availability of supplies. As he moved toward Atlanta, Sherman knew his line of supply was being stretched, resulting in difficulty supplying his troops at the front.

As General Johnston retreated he was executing part of the equation of the space and time strategy, albeit unknowingly. The strategy does not dictate if the retrograde movement is forced or planned. It does stress that the defender does not allow the attacker to draw them into a major engagement. General Johnston was successful in this. In his memoirs he wrote that, on June 13, he requested President Jefferson Davis to have all available cavalry not assigned to his army, placed under the command of General Nathan Bedford Forrest. Forrest’s mission would be to fall on Sherman’s one line of communication disrupting and if possible destroying it. Johnston maintained that he wrote six letters to Davis on the subject. Two letters were sent directly and four routed through General Braxton Bragg. Richmond turned a deaf ear to Johnston even though his plan was endorsed by Polk and Hardee, Johnston’s corps commanders. At a later date General Robert E. Lee urged the implementation of the plan but Richmond still did not act. Did Richmond’s indifference to this plan cost the Confederacy Atlanta and subsequently the war?

Had Forrest been ordered to execute Johnston’s plan, the second part of the space and time defense equation would have been met. To finish the equation, Forrest would have to attack the railroad at more than one location simultaneously. Forrest had made use of this tactic in previous raids. Sherman’s greatest apprehension for the success of his campaign was Forrest receiving the very orders that Johnston’s request had asked to be issued. General Forrest’s record shows that he was successful in these types of operations and there is no reason to believe he could not carry this mission to success. If Sherman’s lines of communication, his one railroad, had been consistently disrupted or even destroyed what options could Sherman entertain?

Jomini’s theory of the space and time strategy allows for three possible courses of action open to the attacker in response to his threatened lines of communication. General Jomini believed that these three courses were inclusive of all variations. The first, likely the least viable for Sherman, is the drawing of reinforcements from areas outside the immediate theater of operations. This response requires time to concentrate and organize a new force to defend or open the lines. Sherman had over 100,000 men and 35,000 animals in his force. He wrote home in June, “I wish we could make an accumulation of stores somewhere near, but the railroad is taxed to its utmost to supply our daily wants.” The disruption of Sherman’s railroad would not have to have been of long duration for his forces to be in jeopardy. There would not have been time enough for the first response to be employed. The second option allows for the attacker to draw troops from his main attacking force in an attempt to defend or reopen his lines. This course weakens the main attacking force and subjects the second force to consistent attacks by the defender. The third course of action, the most desirable for the defender, is the retreat of the attacking force along its lines of communication. This virtually guarantees the reopening of the attackers lines but at the least delays his attainment of his primary goal. It is quite possible, through the defender going on the offensive, that the attacker’s campaign could be altered or even negated. The offensive tactics available to the defender, when the attacker opts for the second or third response, are material for another article.

Had the Confederacy employed the space and time defense against General Sherman’s invasion, it is quite probable that the fall of Atlanta would have at the very least been delayed. It is even possible that Atlanta’s capture could have been prevented. Many credit the fall of Atlanta for the re-election of President Lincoln in 1864. How many “what ifs” exist if McClellan had won the election?

The Confederacy had no coordinated defensive strategy. Given the tremendous handicap in manpower and resources that faced the South, I believe this lack of any such strategy was a fatal flaw. The “offensive-defensive” strategy of Davis was in fact one of dispersed defense. By attempting to defend widely dispersed areas, Davis weakened the overall defensive ability of the Confederacy. General Jomini’s space and time defensive strategy was seemingly tailored for the Confederacy. The strategy does not require large armies, a benefit to the manpower-short South. The defensive typically does not require the resources of the offensive, an aid to the South’s supply situation. The ground of the South, being extremely advantageous to the defense, would have been utilized fully for that purpose. With their lack of a coordinated defensive strategy, any such strategy would have been an advantage to the Confederacy. Though there may be other defensive strategies that the South could have employed, I submit that Jomini’s space and time defensive strategy is the best of these alternatives. I will not state unequivocally that Jomini’s strategy would have changed the fortunes of the Confederacy in the war. I will, however, say that if the strategy had been employed from the beginning the possibility exists.

 

The name “Red Legs” is often confused with the name “Jayhawkers” that describes the Kansas men who supported the Free-State cause in the border wars along the Missouri-Kansas border prior to the American Civil War.

Red Legs were a paramilitary group that was supported by Union generals such as Thomas Ewing Jr., James Blunt, and Senator James H. Lane. It was financed officially by the Kansas governor, Thomas Carney, and saw its first muster under the command of Charles R. “Doc” Jennison and Captain George H. Hoyt, a Massachusetts lawyer who defended John Brown at his trial after the Harpers Ferry Raid. These men were ardent abolitionists, but were equally as vicious as the bushwhackers in Missouri. Buffalo Bill Cody was a Red Leg and admitted that “We were the biggest thieves on record.”

Historian Albert Castel points out that,

Kansas jayhawkers and Red Legs made devastating raids into Missouri during which they plundered and murdered, burned farmhouses and crops, and liberated hundreds of slaves. These forays in turn caused pro-Southern guerrilla bands to retaliate against Kansas. Led by Quantrill, the Missouri bushwhackers sacked Kansas border settlements and shot down unarmed civilians “like so many hogs.” At the same time they waged a deadly partisan warfare against Federal troops and Union adherents in Missouri itself.

This consistent fighting along the border, and the incursions by the pro-southern Missourians into Kansas seeking retribution, led to General Thomas Ewing to issue the infamous General Order No. 11 on August 25, 1863. This depopulation of the Missouri counties of Jackson, Bates, Cass and parts of Vernon, left Missourians with an even stronger hate for their Kansas neighbors, which led to more incursions by bushwhackers and more violence.

In a compilation of letters from the era of the war put together in 1920, there is this account by Sam P. Gott;

About the first of January, 1864, a band of Kansas Red Leg soldiers same into the northwestern part of Johnson county, Missouri, and robbed, burned and murdered in that part of the country for two or three days. An old man named Shafer was killed and the house and barn were burned. An eyewitness told the writer that he saw the smoke going up from twenty-seven houses and barns at one time.

These murderers, claiming to be Jennison’s soldiers, under the command of Jim Lane, returned to Kansas City with their booty and remained there until the first of April, 1864. They then came back into southwestern Lafayette County, apparently to complete the work of devastation in that part of the country. It was on Sunday afternoon that they came into the neighborhood of Chapel Hill (I think it was at this time they burned Chapel Hill College). They hung an old man nearly eighty years old in a barn belonging to a man named William Harris. Old Uncle Joe Johnson was the man who was hung. That night they camped on the farm of Mr. Alph Cobb, about three miles east of Chapel Hill. Early the next morning they went to Washington Martin’s and took away about fifteen head of good mules and horses, besides whatever other valuables they could load into wagons and haul away.

Near Lone Jack in southeast Jackson County, an expedition led by Colonel Charles S. Clark of the Ninth Kansas Cavalry provides an example of how events involving any Red Leg imbedded with the Union troops often turned out.

Martin Rice was a loyal Unionist, but was forced from his home and land. He had obtained the required papers showing his loyalty to the Union but on his five mile journey to his new home in Johnson County, along with a number of his neighbors he was met by the Ninth Kansas Cavalry and arrested. After being questioned by the arresting officer, Captain Charles F. Coleman, Rice was instructed to ‘”Travel!”’ and set back out on his journey. He then heard shots fired and turned around to find that his neighbors and travelling companions all had been accused of assisting a group of guerillas the night before and therefore all had been shot and killed.

Historian Bruce Nichols points out that this event “was purely and act of cruelty or the result of wrong assumptions, it certainly was a case of “shoot first and ask questions later” which typified many of the actions of Union troops in this region during this period…”

Another example of how these Union soldiers went against what Order No. 11 stated was in how they destroyed property and land. Daniel B. Holmes wrote that he and his fellow members of the Seventh Kansas Cavalry lived quite well

Not from what we draw from the commissary but what we jayhawked. When we are traveling through secesh country we come to the home of some leading secesh, or of some man in the secesh army, then we take his horses and property, burn his house, or as we say, clean them out, well, in the operation we generally get a young hog … some turkeys, chickens, once in a while a crock of honey, then don’t we live.

By the end of the war the Red Leg’s faded from the scene afterwards as guerilla war diminished along the border, and “Doc” Jennison was court martialed and dismissed from service in June 1865. Even after 150 years, though, the deeds of the Red Legs are not forgotten on either side of the state line.

Viewing the war in its broadest context, a historian could fairly conclude that a determined general of the North had bested a legendary general of the South, probably the most brilliant tactician on either side, because the Union could bring to bear a decisive superiority in economic resources and manpower.

Robert E. Lee’s mastery of the art of warfare staved off defeat for four long years, but the outcome was never really in doubt. Ulysses S. Grant—and Abraham Lincoln—held too many high cards. And during the last year of the war, the relations between the Union’s Commander in Chief and his General in Chief set an unexcelled example of civil-military co-ordination.

In this costly war, the Union Army lost 138,154 men killed in battle. This figure seems large, but it is scarcely half the number – 221,374 – who died of other causes, principally disease, bringing the total Union dead to 359,528. Men wounded in action numbered 280,040. Figures for the Confederacy are incomplete, but at least 94,000 were killed in battle, 70,000 died of other causes, and some 30,000 died in northern prisons.

With the advent of conscription, mass armies, and long casualty lists, the individual soldier seemed destined to lose his identity and dignity. These were the days before regulation serial numbers and dog tags (although some soldiers made individual tags from coins or scraps of paper). But by the third year of the war various innovations had been introduced to enhance the soldier’s lot. Union forces were wearing corps badges which heightened unit identification, esprit de corps, and pride in organization. The year 1863 saw the first award of the highest United States decoration, the Medal of Honor. Congress had authorized it on July I2, 1862, and the first medals were given by Secretary Stanton in 1863 to Pvt. Jacob Parrott and five other soldiers. They had demonstrated extraordinary valor in a daring raid behind the Confederate lines near Chattanooga. The Medal of Honor remains the highest honor the United States can bestow upon any individual in the armed services.

Throughout the western world, the nineteenth century, with its many humanitarian movements, evidenced a general improvement in the treatment of the individual soldier, and the U.S. soldier was no exception. The more severe forms of corporal punishment were abolished in the U.S. Army in 1861. Although Civil War medical science was primitive in comparison with that of the mid-twentieth century, an effort was made to extend medical services in the Army beyond the mere treatment of battle wounds. As an auxiliary to the regular medical service, the volunteer U.S. Sanitary Commission fitted out hospital ships and hospital units, provided male and, for the first time in the U.S. Army, female nurses, and furnished clothing and fancier foods than the regular rations. Similarly, the U.S. Christian Commission augmented the efforts of the regimental chaplains and even provided, besides songbooks and Bibles, some coffee bars and reading rooms.

The Civil War forced changes in the traditional policies governing the burial of soldiers. On July 17, 1862, Congress authorized the President to establish national cemeteries “for the soldiers who shall die in the service of the country.” While little was done during the war to implement this Congressional action, several battlefield cemeteries – Antietam, Gettysburg, Chattanooga, Stones River, and Knoxville – were set up, “. . . as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives . . .” in lieu of some nameless corner of a forgotten field.

As the largest and longest conflict of the nineteenth century in the western world, save for the Napoleonic struggle, the American Civil War has been argued and analyzed for the more than a hundred years since the fighting stopped. It continues to excite the imagination because it was full of paradox. Old-fashioned, in that infantry attacked in the open in dense formations, it also foreshadowed modern total war. Though not all the ingredients were new, railroads, telegraph communications, steamships, balloons, armor plate, rifled weapons, wire entanglements, the submarine, large-scale photography, and torpedoes – all products of the burgeoning industrial revolution – gave new and awesome dimensions to armed conflict.

Cole Camp Missouri is in the rolling hills and plains of west-central Missouri south of the Missouri River. The events at Cole Camp are a prime example of how hot passions, prejudices, and the brutal nature of unconventional warfare defined the entire state during the American Civil War. As one of the early battles, it proved without a doubt that the brutality witnessed during the battle, would be the harbinger of that which would take place over the next four years.

However, many people, even those who study the conflict in Missouri know little if anything at all about the events in Cole Camp. There are many possible reasons. According to Robert L. Owens, “The most logical explanation is that the two forces involved were hastily thrown-together, rag-tag outfits with no regular officers or forces involved so there were no reports or details.”

This would also tie in with an eyewitness to the event at Cole Camp, Friedrich Schnake, who stated that he believed that Union Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon took no measure to pursue the retreating Confederates and that he “remained quietly with his men in Camp Cameron, near Boonville, until 3 July, as if nothing happened.” His reasoning for this was that he believed Lyon, as a Know-Nothing, hated Germans, who made up 95% of the Benton County Home Guards, Missouri Volunteers, and therefore did not concern himself with the event and even more likely, did not even make an official report of the event. While this seems to be very legitimate reasoning, due to a very brief and vague account in the Official Records (O.R.), however, the event was carried a week later in a New York paper with specific details of KIA and even including names.

In 1861 Cole Camp was situated at the crossroads of four major roads and any information, travel or troop movements across the state would eventually wind up passing through it. Benton, Pettis and Morgan Counties were split between southern-sympathizing residents and the German immigrants, who favored abolition and the Union. Suspicion and hostilities were ever-present and the rosters for the Home Guards and the State Guards would reflect this division. As the breakdown in negations at the Planters Hotel in St. Louis ended and Governor Claiborne Fox Jackson and Major General Sterling Price were on the run towards the southwestern portion of Missouri, General Lyon authorized loyal communities to organize Home Guards for protection. In Benton County, Abel H.W. Cook was commissioned to enlist men for the Home Guard and held rallies on June 11 and 12 where he enlisted over 900 Benton county men, mostly Germans, and then setup “Camp Lyon” on the north-south ridge between the adjacent farms of John Heisterberg and Harm Harms. The barns were their shelters and they drilled in the area between them. However, since the volunteers elected their own officers, most out of popularity rather than for their experience, a host of problems arose that would most certainly play into the forthcoming engagement. The men were over-confident, poorly trained, discipline was almost nonexistent, weapons had not arrived from St. Louis leaving half of the recruits unarmed and to top things off whiskey was in abundance. Just six days later these ill-prepared men would meet a foe they were scarcely ready for.

About 20 miles south of Cole Camp, the southern sympathizing town of Warsaw had raised two State Guard companies with a force of about 350 infantry and 100 cavalry. Led by Walter S. O’Kane, with the scouting information of Benton County Sheriff B.W. Keown, the State Guard skillfully planned their march to clear the way for their retreating governor and in the process, attack the hated “Dutch.” Their plan was simple – through intelligence gained by the Sheriff, they were aware of the deficiencies of their Union foes and chose to make their advance under cover of darkness. In addition, they carried a Union flag to deceive the pickets and the very green soldiers they were going to encounter. On June 19th around 1:00am, as they marched up the Butterfield Trail from Warsaw, they encountered a slave-holding, but loyal Unionist John Tyree who had witnessed the State Guards approach to Cole Camp and reported it to Abel Cook, who mostly disregarded Tyree’s report. Tyree was questioned and then shot, becoming the first causality of the battle.

Back in the Union camp, Cook not having taken Tyree’s report seriously sent for half his force he had furloughed and let the others sleep. This effectively left him with about 400 men in camp, 125 asleep in the two barns, muskets left outside to make room. To make matters worse, fifty more of them were asleep just north of the Heisterberg barn and none of these soldiers were aware of any danger or the attack that was to come.

Around 3:00am the State Guard arrived at Camp Lyon. The cavalry was sent to attack from the southwest as the infantry unfurled a Union flag and continued on, confusing the Union guards, who were then bayoneted before they could sound the alarm or even fire a single shot. The rebels then rushed the Heisterberg barn, shouted, “No mercy for the Dutch!” firing into the barn and killing anywhere from 15 to 20 sleeping Home Guard soldiers and wounding many more. At the sound of gunfire, the sleeping soldiers began to fire into the Southerners flank, pushing them back in retreat until they again regrouped and once again attacked the barn, now empty except for dead and wounded. The Union soldiers however, were now out of ammunition and retreated into the woods. As the soldiers who were asleep in the open formed ranks and prepared to make a defense the State Guard cavalry flanked them and chased them as well into the woods, however, the heavy undergrowth prevented the cavalry from penetrating too deep and the Home Guardsmen were able to take a defensive stand.

Back south at the Harms barn, the Home Guard were forming when they again saw the approaching Union flag in the darkness and before they knew what was happening, the Southerners fired a volley into them and killed quite a few and caused the green Germans to flee in confusion. As the Home Guard fell into total disarray and retreated into the night, they had abandoned almost every single weapon, 362 of 400, which fell into the hands of the State Guard. In 30 minutes it was over. It was the bloodiest battle the Civil War had seen to date, and it allowed Governor Jackson and General Price and their entourage to pass unscathed through Cole Camp as they headed to the southwest portion of the state. At dawn, drunken State Guard troops harassed prisoners, one German named Tomforte was shot because he stated he was a cook, not a soldier, and in their drunken state they believed him to be the Home Guard commander, Able Cook. Wounded men were tended to by women from nearby farms, some exchanged under a flag of truce and the rest as prisoners were taken back to Warsaw.

The numbers have varied but according to muster rolls 600 Union men are listed, however, an Adjutant Generals report dated 31 December 1865 listed only 526 and listed:

“2 officers and 22 men killed, 3 died later of wounds, 2 died of disease.”
 “18 officers, 456 men honorably discharged, 23 discharged for disability.”

Reports of the time stated that nearly a third of the German’s were casualties, somewhere around 35 to 40 dead, 60 wounded and 25 to 30 had been captured. In contrast, the State Guard six or seven killed and about 25 wounded.

The question remains as to why the Battle of Cole Camp has fallen into obscurity? Why has it never received the attention that other battles have, with equal or less casualties? Official reports seem to be non-existent. General Lyon was more concerned with Boonville and Warsaw than he was with Cole Camp where he dictated the following to General George B. McClellan,

BOONEVILLE, MO., June 20, 1861.

General McClellan: I have notice that Missouri is assigned to your command. This (Booneville) is an important point, and should have at least a whole regiment, with an advance post at Warsaw, which is a nest of rebels, who have massacred at Cole Camp Union men. These will permit the Second Missouri Volunteer Regiment to concentrate at Jefferson City. I would have you send a regiment here, with a large supply of stores.

N. LYON.

This seems to lend validity to the view of Friedrich Schnake who believed that Lyon had no concern for the Germans. But as Lyon was about to meet his fate at Wilson’s Creek, his battle plan partner was the native German Col. Franz Sigel. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle of this view and the fact that larger battles were beginning to take place, overshadowing the events at Cole Camp and sending it into the dusty memory of those fighting a war that was just beginning and would see more lives lost than all the wars prior combined. The other possibility is that the Union was soundly defeated by a better prepared and determined State Guard rather than the boastful Home Guard and this was an embarrassment that needed to be swept under the carpet. Even to this day, Cole Camp is not listed as one of the battles for the state of Missouri by the National Park Services CWSAC Battle Summaries.

The Battle of Cole Camp was significant in that it showed the brutality of war, the division that existed in small, rural communities, and a glimpse of what the next four years would hold in store for the rest of the country.

Early in the morning hours of 25 October, 1864, Confederate Major General Sterling Price was retreating as fast as he could to more friendly territory to his base in Arkansas after what many consider the final blow to his Rebel army at the Battle of Westport just two days before. In pursuit were the Union forces under the command of Major General Alfred Pleasonton. Three conflicts took place as the southerners retreated. These conflicts were all Union victories and would ultimately be the final straw in the great Missouri Raid of 1864. Price had intended on securing Missouri for the Confederacy, gaining southern sympathizing supporters, take pressure off the losses in the eastern theater and to install a southern governor at the capital in Jefferson City. None of these happened and his raid in turn had exactly the opposite effect it had intended.

The Battle of Marais des Cygnes was the first of three battles that took place on 25 October 1864. Sterling Price’s rear guard was covering the retreat of the Confederates as they crossed the Marais des Cygnes River. It was an extremely dark night, with considerable rain. According to C.S.A. Lieutenant Colonel L. A. MacLean, Assistant Adjutant-General of Price’s Army,

Before I had gone a mile from the encampment (on the Marais des Cygnes) of the night before, I received an order from General Marmaduke to form my brigade in line of battle, as the enemy had again appeared in our rear. I remained in that position until 10 o’clock; no engagement with small-arms; retiring from that position in line of battle. The enemy, 800 or 900 yards distant in line of battle, followed us. We were now well out on a prairie that seemed almost boundless. At the distance of a mile General Marmaduke directed me to halt, which we did. The enemy coming on with a steady advance approached very near in largely superior force. We retired at a trot, the enemy in close pursuit. We continued this was, each holding about the same position, across a flat prairie some four miles, when we came suddenly upon the trains halted, the delay occasioned by a deep ravine, the enemy not more than 500 yards in our rear. There was no time to make any but the most rapid dispositions for battle.

The relentless push by the Federals finally forced the Confederate rear guard to stop and fight. Major General Samuel Curtis related later that in a communique to his commanding officer that between the hours of 0000 and 0300, they had met the enemy, but had not exchanged fire as they pursued the rebels. However, things changed at 0300 when Curtis sent Major Hunt and three companies of the Second Colorado to attack and by 0400 had a message sent to General Sanborn, who leading the advance party to open with artillery. Major R.H. Hunt rode up from the skirmish lines and begged them to cease firing from that point as the shells were falling on their own men, who had already been driven from their positions in a disorganized retreat.

Daylight began to approach and the rebels deserted their camp and began taking down trees but the Federal push was so strong that the rebels, in disarray, fled in disorder leaving “cattle, camp equipment, negroes, provisions partly cooked, and stolen goods.. scattered over miles of the forest camp.” According to General Curtis’ report, “Few were killed on either side as the night and early morn attack created a general fright in the rebel lines and only random shots on either side.”

The battle at Marais des Cygnes ended and the Union forces continued to pursue the Confederates unabated. About three miles north of Mine Creek, a branch of the Osage River, the Confederates again formed up as they were once again stopped by river to cross. Pleasonton’s advance brigade, consisting of Colonel’s Frederick Benteen (commanding the Iowa, Indiana and other troops) and John Philips (commanding the Missouri troops), moved forward, and Benteen, made dash to the rebels right flank, surrounding them and in the process captured two Confederate Generals, John Marmaduke and William Caball and killed Confederate General Graham. They also captured and killed many other officers and soldiers. The Federals continued to push and as the number of Price’s men began to dwindle they crossed Mine Creek and skirmished between the creek and the Osage, according to Curtis’ report, another two hours in a line that extended for several miles. Mass confusion reigned on the battlefield, as many of Price’s men had donned captured Union uniforms, making it harder to distinguish between them and real Union soldiers. General Curtis made it a point to explain the terrain they were fighting on as being,

…mostly a prairie country the troops of both armies were in full view, and the rapid onward movement of the whole force presented the most extensive, beautiful, and animated view of hostile armies I have ever witnessed. Spread over vast prairies, some moving at full speed in column, some in double lines, and others as skirmishers, groups striving in utmost efforts, and shifting as occasion required, while the great clouds of living masses moved steadily southward, presented a picture of prairie scenery such as neither man nor pencil can delineate.

The speed and ferocity of the Federal attack, even though they were numerically outnumbered, completely took the retreating rebels by surprise and threw them into a mass of disarray. While the southerners who fought did so with valor, many chose to flee. General Price briefly returned but was now in quick haste to attempt to get to Fort Scott.

As the afternoon wore on the Confederates once again found a river blocking their escape route. Once again, Price and the Confederates had to make a stand. Brigadier General John McNeil headed the Union attack against rebels that were rallied by Price and his officers. Many of these men were even unarmed but began their assault on the Federals. McNeil not knowing the actual size did not mount a full assault and after two hours of skirmishing could not at this point effectively pursue what was left of Price’s army. According to General Curtis’ report,

The distance traveled during the day and the frequent conflicts in which we had been engaged during the four previous days and nights had indeed exhausted men and horses; still it was my earnest desire to rest on the field, sending to Fort Scott for food and forage. But ammunition and other supplies were also necessary, and the erroneous statement of the distance to Fort Scott irresistibly carried my main forces to that place of abundant supply. The enemy burned a vast number of his wagons and destroyed much of his heavy ammunition, so as to materially accommodate his farther retreat. Thus all our troops, some on the field of battle at Charlot and the remainder at Fort Scott, rested a few hours of the night of the 25th and 26th.

With no more pursuers and really nothing left of his Army, Price limped back to Arkansas. His grand plan to claim Missouri for the Confederacy not only ended in failure but came with a great loss of life. The plan was doomed from the beginning as they marched on Fort Davidson in southeast Missouri and finally, almost exactly one month later was laid to rest in southeastern Kansas.

During the Civil War in Missouri and eastern Kansas, in addition to killing prisoners, both the Jayhawkers of Kansas and the Bushwhackers of Missouri murdered and robbed civilians as well as soldiers which was and is commonplace in any guerrilla war. The following correspondence describes a “Guerrilla” attack on Lamar, Mo., and the “Union” response from Fort Scott. Both documents are located on Pages 348 and 352-354 in Series I, Vol. 13 of the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

“Lamar, Mo., November 6, 1862.

Sir: I have the honor to report that I was attacked last night by a band of rebels, numbering 200 or 300. I fought them some two and a half hours from houses and every way. The rebels rushed in and burned about one third of the town. They killed three of my men and wounded three mortally, I think. We held the town and still hold it. We killed five or six of the rebels. I shall stay here until I hear from you. We would like to have some men in this part of the country. Three squads have passed through this country within the past week, numbering in all about 1,000. They are going south. If I had 150 more men here, I think I could capture the squads that are passing through this country. I am not strong enough to organize the militia in Jasper County.

Yours with respect,

M. BREEDEN,Captain.”


“Headquarters, Fort Scott, Kan., Nov. 11, 1862.

General: I have the honor to report that on the morning of the instant I received a dispatch from Capt. Breeden, dated Lamar, at 9 p.m. the night before stating that he had been attacked by about an hour before by 400 men under Quantrill that they were still fighting and asking for assistance. I immediately sent Capt. Conkey with 80 men and Capt. Coleman with 30 men; they leaving here at 4 o’clock a.m. Thursday morning.

At 9 o’clock I learned that Captain Morton’s (wagon) train was at Carthage the same night and being fearful that he would run right into the enemy I dispatched a messenger to Capt. Conkey, stating these facts and directing him to follow on and if necessary to fight his way through to the train.

Capt. Conkey did follow on and got after the enemy and killed one of them and learned that the train had passed west in safety. On the night following, the train arrived here, having made a forced march.

The next morning about 3 a.m., a messenger reached me stating that (Confederate guerrilla) Livingston with 100 men was on the Dry Wood about two miles above Redfield murdering and robbing and that he was working up stream. I immediately ordered Capt. Mefford to take about 75 men and make a crossing at Morris Mill, but owing to his men being very tired and his scouts worn down, he did not get started until about 6 o’clock and in the mean time messengers continued to arrive with information of Livingston’s movements, passing up stream above Morris Mill and the military crossing at Endicott’s, so that by the time Mefford was ready he made direct for Cato and there struck his trail about one hour behind him and pursued him about 25 miles to Cow Creek and overtook him, making a running fight and wounding one of Livingston’s men and recovering some prisoners. As his stock (horses) was badly used up and the enemy well mounted and scattered Captain Mefford returned to this post and I am glad to say he did as well as he could considering the condition of his horses.

In the meantime, I had dispatched a messenger to Capts. Conkey and Coleman, who had encamped at Morris’ Mill, on the direct road to Carthage to make for Sherwood (Mo.) and to intercept them there. The messenger reached them in good time and they started for Sherwood, but as it grew dark before they reached that place and having no one with them familiar with the country, they were obliged to encamp until next morning.

The command then separated, Capt. Coleman on the south side of Spring River and Capt. Conkey on the north side and worked down toward Sherwood and Capt. Coleman being in the advance came upon the enemy and charged them, killing four or five and taking four prisoners, including the notorious Capt. Baker, who was taken by Capt. Coleman himself.

Take it all in all, I think the pursuit a decided success and that the enemy will be more cautious hereafter. If I had a respectable number of well-mounted men I would punish their impudence. On the night of the 10th instant I sent Lieutenant Cavert of the third Wisconsin with 16 men to Lamar, with dispatches for Capt. Breeden and they reached there at a.m. yesterday the 11th instant and found that Quantrill had left just after burning most of the town that had been spared by him before. I am satisfied that Quantrill is waiting for a train and I shall be compelled to send all of my cavalry with it which will weaken the post so much that he may feel like making an attack upon us. There is, as I learn from proper officers about $2,000,000 worth of government property at this post and vicinity and it does seem to me as if our force is hardly sufficient. I learn also that the trains passing from Springfield have a very strong guard most of the time a full regiment and it certainly is not as dangerous as our route.

If you are inclined to send a large cavalry force it would please me to have Capts. Earle and Coleman of the Ninth Kansas with their companies if it would suit your pleasure.

The whole transportation belonging to this post is engaged in carrying commissary stores to the command, but we are expecting 100 more teams from Fort Leavenworth the coming week. After this train shall start, the enemy can approach very near and laugh at us, as I shall have no cavalry to send after them at any time since I have been here and the only way that I have been able to keep them from doing more mischief is by having small scouting parties on the move in their country all the while and that has told on our horses.

In these expeditions, my men have been very successful losing none and having only a few wounded and have killed quite a number of the enemy and frightened them awfully. I have just learned that the citizens on Dry Wood are leaving with their families after asking for a force which I could not give them and Squire Redfield has also asked for a force in his vicinity as the inhabitants are very much frightened.

I am General, very respectfully, you obedient servant,

B.S. HENNING,
Major, Third Wisconsin Cavalry, Commanding Post.”

It appears by this letter that Maj. Henning was very concerned, as he should have been, about the minimal numbers of troops stationed at Fort Scott to protect the post and provide protection for the transient wagon trains and the citizens of the area. This was a problem that plagued all of the Union commanders at Fort Scott throughout the war, but it did not stop them from sending relief columns to the towns in the surrounding area, including towns in Missouri such as Lamar when they were threatened or attacked, and of course, the war went on!

During the Civil War, especially in Missouri and Kansas, there was a fine line between soldiers simply following orders or letting vengeance or retribution take over. As bushwackers continued to stymie Union forces in the state and both sides embracing the “no quarter” philosophy (that is, not taking prisoners, but upon capture, the prisoner would be executed), both sides were determined to break the other. Such is the story of Confederate Major John L. Owen. Owen had been a Major in the Missouri State Guard under the command of General Sterling Price and his actions in Missouri vary depending on whose account is told. However his capture and death also balance between getting what he deserved by the rules of the military or being murdered.

Owen’s wife, Mary submitted her account of events, as well as detailing Owen’s military service and his motives:

About the 1st of September my husband, John L. Owen, then captain of a company of six-months’ men (sworn into the State service about the middle of June), started to General Price. He was promoted to major and returned home the 6th of December. Since that time to my certain knowledge he has had no company nor part of company; neither has he been connected in any way with a company. And I do know and can say with truth that he never either before or since his return from the arms has been engaged in what is termed bushwhacking and that he has never shot into the cars. On the contrary I known he was always opposed to that kind of warfare. I have frequently heard him speak on the subject, therefore I know his opinion…

On the 8th day of June before we had risen in the morning we were surrounded by Federal troops knocking at the doors for admittance. My mother, her two sons who live with her, Amsley and William, myself and child were all who were in the house. The soldiers came in, searched the house, took both Amsley and William prisoners and took them away, while others came and surrounded the place. Persons who saw them estimated their numbers at about 300. They had their pilots with them. They dashed through the fields like so many fiends, and into the meadow where my husband had slept the night before (and no doubt he had been watched to his sleeping place), and oh, they found him in a little cluster of bushes not more than 200 or 300 yards from the house and in plain view of the house. They found him alone, unarmed and defenseless; one poor man, without any resistance at all, gave himself up to his savage captors. Resistance would have been vain and he knew it. Oh, the savage yells they sent up when they found him; they ret.

They brought him to the house. We saw them coming. I was greatly troubled to think they had him prisoner; but oh, I could not conceive that persons calling themselves men and Christian men could have hearts cruel enough to murder him in the brutal manner in which they did. They all halted at the fence and got water. While here they questioned him as to who stayed with him, and several other questions, among the rest where was his company. He told them he had no company. His mother and myself told them the same. They called us all liars and said they knew he had a company for they had been told so, and that he had to tell where it was. We all assured them that he told the truth, but they would not believe us. They said, “Take him away from these women, and if he does not tell us we will hang him. ” He said just as they started from the house if they would treat him as a prisoner of war and according to the honors of war he had no fears.

I feared from their savage appearance that they might abuse him or do him some harm, and I followed them about a quarter of a mile entreating them to spare his life; that he was innocent of the charges they had against him, and not to take an innocent man’s life. They assured me they would not kill him, and told me to go back home now and come down to Palmyra the next day and see him. That satisfied me. I turned and came home.

They did not go over half a mile farther till they killed him.

A letter in the Quincy Whig in 1862 claimed to hold the facts to Owen’s case and disputed his wife’s account. This was written by the Provost-Marshal of Palmyra, Missouri, William R. Strachan, an ardent supporter of the Union. The letter begins with,

SIR: I am led to thank you for your happy answer to a letter purporting to have emanated from Mrs. J. L. Owen describing the manner of the death of her husband. Whilst every person can sympathize with the wife in her affliction and regret she was so unfortunate in having so guilty a husband, still every loyal right-minded citizen must be satisfied with the merited punishment of so notorious a traitor as John L. Owen.

I wish to give points in the career of this “Major ” John L. Owen which may expose the outrage of publishing such a letter as that in the Herald. J. L. Owen was the first man who inaugurated bushwhacking in this portion of the State of Missouri. His company by his orders burned some eight or ten passenger coaches on the Hannibal and Saint Joseph Railroad, burned a depot building at Monroe Station, tore up the railroad track, destroyed culverts and fired into passenger cars. On one occasion they met a man by the name of Hotchkiss who never had carried arms and was particularly inoffensive, being engaged in trading with the farmers in the vicinity of Monroe City for butter, eggs, &c., and in return delivering them coffee, sugar, cotton, &c. He had never committed any higher crime than that of voting for Abraham Lincoln, yet this man while watering his horses was deliberately shot down; eight balls were put into him and he was left for dead. The man, however, was taken care of by the Sixteenth Illinois’ surgeon and I believe is now alive in Hannibal.

He continues,

Again, John L. Owen has been hiding from justice since Christmas, lying concealed, sleeping in the brush, and was found in his bed in the brush, and armed.

General orders from headquarters are imperative that this class of men caught under arms in this part of the United States are to be shot on the spot. These orders have been published to the world. Mr. Owen was not shot in the presence of his family, he was not tied, he was not abused; but the general orders that commanded him to be shot were read to him, and he was regularly executed in accordance with military usage.

However, another version clearly presents a case where there is some discrepancies in the actual shooting of Owen. Joseph Mudd was an unapologetic secessionist, slave holder and served with the Army of Northern Virginia later in the war. During his time with Colonel Joseph C. Porter in northeast Missouri, Mudd was witness to the events surrounding Owen’s death. In his book With Porter in Northern Missouri, he tells the story of the event as such,

On the 8th of June a scouting party of the Eleventh Missouri State Militia, commanded by Captain W. W. Lair, made a prisoner of Major John L. Owen, who lived near Monroe City, in Marion County, and shot him… Returning home in December, 1861, he found an indictment for treason hanging over him, and so he could not come in and surrender. He continued to hide out until he was captured… Captain Collier and the Shelby County company made him prisoner and took him to his family. Here they assured his wife they would take him to Palmyra and would not harm him. Half a mile from his house they set him on a log against a fence and put eight bullets through him-caliber 54… Captain Collier states that when he left Palmyra, he had strict orders to enforce the terms of General Schofield’s ‘Orders No. 18,’ enjoining the ‘utmost vigilance in hunting down and destroying’ all bushwhackers and marauders, who, the order said, ‘when caught in arms, engaged in their unlawful warfare,’ were to be shot down ‘on the spot.

Newspapers were also guilty of either supporting southern sympathies or supporting the Union. The following is from the Hannibal (Mo.) Hearld of June 10:

Information was brought into camp at Palmyra on Saturday last that Colonel John L. Owen, a notorious rebel who has made himself conspicuous in burning bridges, cars and depots, firing into passenger trains, last summer and fall, was secreted at or near his farm in Monroe. A detachment from Company A, Eleventh Regiment Missouri State Militia (Colonel Lipscomb), under command of Lieutenant Donahoo, was immediately sent out from Palmyar to hunt the outlaw. On approaching the farm of Colonel Owen on Sunday about 12 m. the squad discovered a negro running rapidly from the house toward a piece of brush. The lieutenant and his company immediately started for the brush and going into it discovered the game and soon bagged it. At first the colonel showed a determination to resist his capture, but finding such a proceeding useless he yielded. Preparations were made for his execution. He begged the soldiers to take him prisoner. They informed him that “Taking prisoners” was played out. They then placed him upon a stump in front of a file of soldiers and at the word of command eight bullets pierced the body of the rebel, killing him instantly.

Thus has ended the career of a notorious bushwacker and outlaw. He has met the just retribution of his damning crimes.

This leads us to try and determine what really happened with John L. Owen and presents a case that historians struggle with when trying to piece together an event from primary sources, that is, it all depends on who you ask. The facts that are readily clear are that Owen was indeed a southern sympathizer, he did take up arms against the Union while under Price’s command, and he was killed by Union soldiers after being captured. The details, however, will always be at the mercy of the historian piecing together the tale. Was he innocent? Was he indeed unarmed? Was a promise to keep him as a prisoner given and then reneged on?

The list goes on, and the truth is left to the minds of those who attempt to piece the puzzle together, knowing there will always be missing pieces and a true picture is nearly impossible to find.