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.

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!

Of those who suffered the most during the Civil War, the family is clearly at the top of the list. Not only were there sectional divides between North and South, but citizens of towns against each other, friendships lost over the divide, and families torn apart.

The Civil War has often been described as pitting brothers against brothers. In fact at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10, 1861, both Joseph Shelby, member of the Missouri State Guard, and his stepbrother Cary Gratz, soldier in the 1st Missouri Infantry, U.S., fought on Bloody Hill. The War, however, was not limited to the battlefield as political differences created painful divisions among family members. The State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Rolla, contains a valuable anthology entitled, The Hunter-Hagler collection, which reveals how women endured through the Civil War and the struggles one matriarch, Elizabeth Hunter, faced in trying to keep her family together through the perils of wartime. The Hunter family lived in Jasper County, Missouri. The collection provides letters written by Elizabeth Hunter and her daughters, Priscilla A. Hunter and Charlotte Elizabeth (Hunter) Hagler. The correspondents contained in this collection are to Elizabeth’s daughter Margaret Hunter-Newberry, who married and left the family farm. The letters are very candid and expose graphic details about daily life in Southwest Missouri.

We hear of horse steeling every week or too Motly’s horses was stoled a few nights ago all they had at home they went to the Sarcoxie mill last week and told the miller if the ground another grain he would kill him so the mill is standing the water is so low wee can hardly git grinding done atal we hear the drouth is awful in the north part of the state and the rebbels killing burning and destroying worse than they are here Jenison [Charles Jennison] is let loose among them I hope he will give them justice the rebels are under no law and the malitia is bound down not to pester anything that belongs to a sworn secish they can ride fine horses but if we go we have to walk we can’t keep a horse here the union party is on the decline we cant keep nothing for the bushwhacks but the secish is let alone Mag I cant be a secesh there is no use trying I am furder from it all the time to see how they are killing our men distroying our cuntry who can claim themfor there party. They have killed Mr Clark Peter Baker Mr Seymore Brice Henry John Blake Pearson Lorence and Alfred Lawrence around here this summer.

– Elizabeth Hunter and to Margaret (Mag) Hunter Newberry-Aug. 11, 1864

Guerrilla warfare spread throughout the Midwest region like a brush fire, hitting hard especially the southwest corner of Missouri along the Kansas border. Marauding bands of men would terrorize civilians, ransacking their homes, pillaging whatever goods they had available, and then burning their homes so nothing remained. Those who were witness to these atrocities were women and children. With the landscape of southwest Missouri devoid of men, women were called upon to offer up their reproductive duties, i.e. their children and their domestic powers to support the men fighting. The Civil War offered women a rare opportunity to step into traditionally masculine roles, without the fear of ridicule or of being ostracized. Many women arose to the challenge and adapted into the roles previously held by their husbands, fathers, and brothers. Women were now working as the head of all aspects of their household, business, or farm. Facing violence, managing a home without a secure network of support, raising a family in the midst of disease and deprivation, tending to crops with a diminished workforce…all combined though to make hardship an everyday reality for these intrepid women.

That reality though proved to be too much for Elizabeth Hunter and her family to handle so they relocated to Illinois in 1864 and remained there until the war was over. The Hunter family was just one of the hundreds of families that were forced to abandon their homes and move to a safer location due to the hostile environment created by the war. Increase in guerrilla warfare along the Missouri-Kansas border forced General Thomas Ewing to issued Order No. 1 1 on August 25, 1863, in an effort to depopulate the area of guerrilla supporters. The order mandated all citizens living in Bates, Cass, Jackson, and the northern half of Vernon County to evacuate their homes immediately and seek refuge in another area.To make matters more complicated for Elizabeth, she also had to deal with an on-going conflict with her daughter Margaret. Margaret was allegedly a secessionist and through the context of the letters it is clear that Margaret felt very disconnected from her family because of their opposing beliefs. Elizabeth adamantly professed her love for her daughter and all her children, but she refused to change her stance on supporting the Union, and tried to persuade her daughter to reconsider her secessionist position.

I am always glad to hear from you, dont let such thauts enter your mind that I ever get tired of yet I would like to be with you all the time. I love you with that love that none but a mother knows it distresses me to think that my child has any fears that I have forsaken [MS torn]ntend long as I have a heart to love any thing I will love my children and be there true friend as I have always been, dont think because we differ in opinion in war matters that I aint your friend I can tell you that I think the rebbels and copperheads are all wrong they will see it when I fear it will be too late.

-Elizabeth Hunter letter Jan. 10, 1865

Whether Elizabeth and her daughter Margaret ever reconciled after the war ended is unknown. However, one may speculate that Margaret did find some peace with her mother, since she kept all the letters she wrote to her. The Hunter-Hagler letters are a powerful collection depicting the hardships many families faced in a politically torn region as neighbors and even families turned on one another. The Hunter-Hagler collection is housed at the State Historical Society of Missouri Research Center-Rolla. The collection was digitized for inclusion in the Community & Conflict project, which serves to explore the war’s impact on the Ozarks.

Digital scans and transcripts of the Hunter-Flagler letters can be viewed at: http://www.ozarkscivilwar.org/archives/1044.

Original article by Rachel Regan

On October 29, 1862 the Battle of Island Mound marked the first time that African-American troops were engaged in Civil War combat, nearly a year before the battle depicted in the film Glory. The current Battle of Island Mound State Historic site encompasses Fort Africa, where the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry were camped in 1862 before a pitched battle with pro-Confederate forces near a low hill named Island Mound. This battle and the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteer Infantry had a major effect on later Union decisions to allow African-American units to fight.

The following report was given by Captain R. G. Ward of Company B and Colonel J. M. Williams, Commanding First Regiment Kansas Colored Volunteers.

DEAR SIR: I hereby respectfully submit the following report of the part taken by that portion of your command which accompanied me to Missouri:

By order of Maj. B. S. Henning, I started from Camp William A. Phillips Sunday, October [26], with 160 men and 6 officers, joining Capt. H. C. Seaman and command, comprising some sixty-four men (colored) and a small party of white scouts, and moved by the way of Mound City and Camp Defiance to the Dickey’s Crossing of the Osage, in Bates County, Mo., at which point we arrived Monday afternoon. Shortly after crossing the stream me were made aware of the presence of the enemy in force by their scouts and by information from citizens, who stated that Cockrell, Campbell, Hancock, and Turman had concentrated their forces on Osage Island, and that their combined force amounted to some 700 or 800 men, all splendidly mounted. We immediately took possession of old man Toothman’s house (a noted rebel guerrilla) and commenced skirmishing with the enemy’s scouts and pickets, we trying to draw them off the island and the enemy trying to draw us to the bushes. Tuesday we were engaged all day in desultory skirmishes, but the wind was so high were unable to injure them with our sharpshooters, they taking good care to keep a respectful distance. At night, after a consultation with Captain Seaman, we concluded to send runners to Kansas for a force of cavalry sufficient to aid us in dislodging the enemy. accordingly we sent three, one to you at Fort Lincoln, one to Fort Scott, and one to Paola. Wednesdsy morning I detached Captains Armstrong and Crew, with a force of some sixty men, to engage the attention of the enemy, while Captain Seaman, Captain Thrasher, of his command, and Lieutenant Huddleston, with a force of some fifty men, foraging, as we were entirely out of food with the exception of beef end parched corn. Captain Armstrong found a force of the enemy some two miles from camp, and immediately threw out his skirmishers, under command of Orderly Sergeant Smithers, of Company B, who immediately moved forward to the attack and drove the enemy from position to position until they had been driven some four miles from camp, the enemy shouting to the boys to “come on, you d—-d n—-rs,” and the boys politely requesting them to wait for them, as they were not mounted. We succeeded in placing seven men hors de combat, with no loss on our side, and the boys felt highly elated on their return at their success.

While at dinner the enemy made a dash at our pickets and ran them into camp and then drew off. Suspecting that they were concentrating troops behind the mound south of us, we threw out a small party of skirmishers to feel toward them and ascertain their force and retake our picket ground. The boys soon drove the enemy over the hill, and the firing becoming very sharp, I ordered Lieut. Joseph Gardner to take a force of some twenty men and proceed to rally the skirmishers end return to camp, while I placed Captain Armstrong’s force (consisting of detachments from Companies A, B, E, H, and G) under arms. I here found that Captain Crew and Lieutenant Huddleston had left the camp and had gone toward where our skirmishers were engaged. Becoming uneasy at the prolonged absence of Gardner and the skirmishers, I marched Armstrong’s force toward the firing and placed them behind the bluffs, and went forward myself to reconnoiter the position of affairs. I found a detachment of the enemy posted on a mound immediately south of me and some of our scouts occupying a mound west of me, on the right. I sent Adjutant Hinton to that point to ascertain where our force (Gardner’s) was. He returned with the information that they were at a house some 800 yards south of the mound and were making preparations to return, feeling confident that the enemy would attempt to cut them off. I ordered Armstrong to move by the right flank and gain a position in rear of the mound, and dispatched a messenger to camp to inform Captain Seaman of the position of affairs and requesting him to place other forces under arms and to be ready to move immediately. No sooner had this happened than the enemy charged with a yell toward Gardner’s little band of twenty-five men. The boys took the double-quick over the mound in order to gain a small ravine on the north side, but while they were on the north slope the enemy came upon them. Nothing dismayed, the little band turned upon their foes, and as8 their guns cracked many a riderless [horse] swung off to one side. The enemy cried out to the men to surrender but they told them never. I have witnessed some hard fights, but I never saw a braver sight than that handful of brave men fighting 117 men who were all around and in amongst them. Not one surrendered or gave up a weapon.

At this juncture Armstrong came into the [fight] like a lion, yelling to his men to follow him, and cursing them for not going faster when they were already on the keen jump. He formed them in line within 150 yards and poured in a volley. The enemy charged down the slope and were met by a volley from Captain Thrasher’s command, who had just been posted by Seaman. They swung to the right in order to out-flank Armstrong and gain his rear. I immediately ordered a detachment of men under Lieutenants Dickerson and Minor across the open angle between Thrasher’s and Armstrong’s, which was executed with promptness. The enemy finding themselves foiled, wheeled their force and dashed np the hill. The brave Armstrong saw them through the smoke (they, the enemy, having set the prairie on fire) charged his brave lads through the fire, and gave them a terrible volley in the flank as they dashed by. This ended the fight, although they had re-enforcements arriving, estimated by some of our best judges to be from 300 to 400 strong. They did not wish “anymore in theirs.” They had tested the n—-rs and had received an answer to the often mooted question of “will they fight.” Here commenced the most painful duty of the day, the removal of the killed and wounded. On that, slope lay 8 of our dead and 10 wounded, among the former the brave, lamented, and accomplished Captain Crew. He fell as a brave man should fall, facing the foe, encouraging his men never to yield, and casting defiance at the enemy. Three of them rode up to him and demanded him to surrender, saying that they would take him to their camp. He told them never. They said that they would shoot him then. Shoot and be d—-d,” was the reply of the heroic soldier, and set them the example by running backward and discharging his revolver at them, but almost immediately fell, pierced through the heart, groin, and abdomen. Among the wounded was Lieutenant Gardner. He fell shot in the thigh and knee by a heavy load of buckshot. While in this situation, unable to move, one of the cowardly demons dismounted, and making the remark that he would finish the d—d son of a b—h, placed his revolver to his head and fired. The ball, almost by a miracle, did not kill him; striking his skull and glancing around his head came out on the other side. He will recover. It is hard to make distinctions where every man did his whole duty, and I hereby return my thanks to every men and officer of the expedition for their splendid behavior. Captain Armstrong having called my attention to the good behavior before the enemy of Private Scantling, of Company B, Private Prince, of Company E, I hereby make honorable mention of them in this report. Captains Armstrong, Pearson, and Seaman also highly commend Orderly Sergeant Smithers, of Company B, for his coolness and assistance before the enemy. There are undoubtedly numerous instances of men being as meritorious as these, but I have not space in this already long report to particularize. Accompanying this you will find a list of killed and wounded, heroes all, who deserve the lasting gratitude of all the friends of the cause and race.* Thursday the enemy fled and nothing of interest occurred until you arrived and took the command.

I have the honor to be, sir, respectfully, your most obedient servant,

R. G. WARD,
Captain company B.

Col. J. M. Williams,
Commanding First Regiment Kansas Colored Volunteers.

*Nominal list (omitted) shows 1 officer and 7 men killed, 1 officer and 10 men wounded.

 

Battle of Island Mound

Missouri State Parks’ new short film depicting the story of the Battle of Island Mound, the first time that African-American troops were engaged in Civil War combat is coming soon to a state park or historic site near you.

After the destruction of Osceola, Mo., on Sept. 24, 1861, the Kansas Brigade commanded by Brig. Gen. James Henry Lane was ordered to Kansas City to assist in the defense of that metropolis.

Eventually, the “brigade” was to join a large combined Union force commanded by Maj. Gen. John C. Fremont to attack and destroy the Confederate forces that had recently won the “Battle of the Hemp Bales” at Lexington, Mo., and who now and occupied it. This never happened.

However, the following description of Gen. Lane, whose nickname was the “Grim Chieftain,” and the Kansas Brigade was published in the Oct. 2, 1861, edition of the Leavenworth Daily Times Newspaper while the brigade was in Kansas City.

“At an early hour Col. Anthony (Note: brother of Susan B. Anthony) took his men out to meet Brig. Gen. Lane’s large force that was met about one mile out of town and as fresh and jubilant as if it had just entered the field.

They have been marching almost every day since Gen. Lane took command. They have traveled some 300 miles, often met the foe and have never been defeated. Gen. Lane has nearly recovered from his recent illness. Disease cannot wither nor ague beat his restless activity. Lane still wears a straw hat, plain coat and a grey woolen shirt and is the most marked and unmilitary man in the brigade!

The camp is on the upland west of McGee’s Addition. The tents cover several acres of ground and present a scene picturesque. Cols. Montgomery, Ritchie and Weer are here and eager for a march on Lexington.

Their account of the recent engagements in Missouri differs somewhat from the published statements and will be sent to you hereafter.

At Osceola, not less than a million dollars worth of property was taken or destroyed. The impression is general that secession is dried up in Southwest Missouri.

A force has been left at Westpoint, (Mo.), Barnesville and Fort Lincoln, (Kan.) to attend to possible emergencies. The junction of (Gens.) Lane and Sturgis disposes of many fears hitherto entertained. We hope it has not been too late.

The great object attraction here is Lane’s Brigade and the eccentric commandant of that institution is the “rage” all about here. Hundreds — and a chronicler of ordinarily brilliant imagination and less regard for strict numerical accuracy than myself would say thousands — of curious people are constantly thronging his quarters to get a glimpse of the great leader or to shove a letter from some influential individual under his nose.

However, the ubiquitous gentleman rather beat them yesterday; and he accomplished the skillful maneuver in this way:

When he arrived here on Monday, he was habilitated (dressed) in an old straw hat, cowhide boots, blue blouse which had been thrown away by a private in Montgomery’s regiment, some sort of apology for pantaloons and a butternut brown woolen shirt with beard, hair and face to correspond, and thus decorated, everyone, by instinct, could detect the hero of Black Jack and Hickory Point.

Yesterday morning, at 9 o’clock, I visited his tent and found an immense crowd wandering about the neighborhood, each inquiring of the other if he had seen or knew the whereabouts of “Ginerl Lane.”

Upon approaching his tent, I found therein a solitary gentleman seated upon an old split bottommed chair, one leg thrown across the other, intently engaged in caressing, with thumb and finger of his right hand, a beard, if not remarkably luxurious, yet splendidly variegated in color.

Upon a careful reconnaissance, I discovered this figure to be the very specimen of mortality which the adjacent crowd were so anxious to see. He had donned the new rig made especially for him in Boston — blue coat and pants, buff vest, black chapeau and feather as long as a war-leader in the “times” and such boots as would make Gen. Losee, or any other fast horseman, stick his eyes out far enough for Sam Stinson’s Thanksgiving turkey (which he is going to buy and not eat alone) to roost upon.

In this make-up, he sat as quiet and undisturbed as if he were in a wilderness, seemingly enjoying the discomfiture of the multitude about him, when a man with long whiskers, who looked as if he traveled once with a show, approached and asked if Gen. Lane were in?

“No” was the laconic reply of the hero, with the least bit of a twinkle in the northeast corner of his left eye — (I sat northeast of him) — and the victim evaporated. “Such” is war.

I see a great many Leavenworth gentlemen here, each on his own errand. For example, Col. Delahay is offering Gen. Lane a contract to lay out quarters and fractions of the city of Lexington.

R. Crozier, Esq., is trying to persuade Lane that if he will resign his seat in the senate (Lane was one of the two original U.S. senators from Kansas) and revive the old Territorial Legislature, he –Crozier — can, by a skillfully worded provision in a special act, repeal the war and revive the trade and prosperity of the country. Lane, being a little incredulous, naturally, is not quite convinced and, hence, does not resign.

Capts. Insly and Wilder are head and ears in the business of getting things ready for the contemplated march (to Lexington). Besides these gentlemen, there may be seen sitting around on stumps and old boxes and hanging on pegs and limbs of trees all that crew of familiars (people) you may see lounging about the lobby and committee rooms of the legislature aforesaid, asking for an appropriation to build a territorial road or urging the passage of an act incorporating a ferry across three mile creek where the road to the region — commonly called Pike’s Peak — crosses the same.”

The attack on Lexington, Mo., never materialized because the Confederate forces evacuated the city and marched to southwest Missouri.

In October of 1861, Gen. Lane and the Kansas Brigade eventually marched south through Missouri to Springfield and, of course, the war went on!

In January of 1863, before being deployed into the northeast Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), the “Union” Indian Brigade” from Kansas comprised of the first, second and third regiments of Indian Home Guards was stationed at Camp Curtis in northeast Arkansas near the town of Maysville. As the result of a change in command, Col. William A. Phillips, the commander of the Indian Brigade, submitted the following status report of his brigade to his new commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Samuel Ryan Curtis. This report is located on Pages 56 -58 in Series I, Vol. 22, Part II Correspondence in the official Records of the War of the Rebellion.

Headquarters, 3rd Brigade, 1st Div.,
Army of the Frontier, Camp Curtis, Jan. 19, 1863.
Maj. Gen. Curtis, Commanding

Sir: I desire to report the peculiar features, character and present condition of the three Indian regiments. My close connection with them in active service during the past nine months has given me opportunities to judge and I submit a report as brief as it can be made, believing it is necessary to give the government a clear idea of the nature and wants of this branch of the service.

First: The first Indian Regiment is of Creeks, mustered at Leroy, (Kan). The only white officers at first were field officers. The regiment did some service in June and July (1862); it became badly demoralized for want of sufficient and competent officers; partially broke up in August; was collected in October and had white First Lieutenants mustered, under Gen. Blunt’s order. Some 300 or 400 of the regiment, who had gone to Leroy in August and who had refused to leave it, got down with the train just at the same time the Army of the Frontier was re-brigaded. The regiment has drilled very little; are indifferently informed as to their duties.

These Creeks are about equal in scale of intelligence to the Delawares of Kansas; they are inferior to the Cherokees. They are now in bad shape, get out their details slowly, sometimes desert a post or a party when sent on duty; yet I would be lacking in my duty to them or the government if I failed to say that, with one or two good field officers, military men, and two or even three, company officers, they could be made very effective. No party of them should be sent without a competent officer. Their own officers are, with few exceptions useless, but there are one or two men of influence amongst the captains, brave fighters in the field and of influence not to be overlooked. This Creek regiment gives me much more concern than either of the others

Second: The Second Regiment originally consisted of Osages, Quapaws, etc., and when it got into the Cherokee Nation, finally of Cherokees. The Osages, who were neither more or less than savages and thieves, who brought the whole Indian command into disgrace, were finally mustered out (discharged) during one of their periodic desertions, which fortunately happened at pay time. So, too, of Quapaws and other broken fragments of tribes that were little better. Under Gen. Blunt’s orders, I recruited for the 2nd Indian Regiment and its numbers have been brought up to its present status from Cherokee, half-breeds and whites. Last summer the regiment drilled but little; lately it has improved in that respect. It still lacks necessary officers, but is in a fair way to make a useful force.

Third: The Third Indian Regiment, which was my own, rejoined after its organization, was literally taken from the enemy and was the heaviest blow dealt in the Southwest last summer. Profiting by the experience of the first two regiments, it was organized by General Blunt’s orders, at my suggestion, with first lieutenants and orderly sergeants picked out of the white regiments in the field. I endeavored to secure active, intelligent men, conversant with their duties as soldiers or non-commissioned officers and just so far as I succeeded in this the result has been favorable. Unless when on the actual march, the regiment had dress parade every evening and drill and officers’ school every day. The result is that it is as well drilled as many white regiments that have a longer time in the service.

The regiment has done a great deal of active service, besides innumerable scouts and skirmishes. They were for two hours and 40 minutes under hot musketry and finally artillery fire at Newtonia. They participated at Fort Wayne, Cane Hill, Dutch Mills, Prairie Grove and other engagements. This is the only Indian regiment that really is a success so far, although the Second will undoubtedly will be, but there are several errors in its organization and some few of the command and also the Third absent themselves without leave, which is a chronic Indian weakness.

The error in all of the Indian regiments has been in not mustering the captains or white officers to be fully responsible for property and to see that orders are carried out. I take the liberty of suggesting that the necessary officers for an Indian company are, the Captain (first lieutenant might be an Indian) and second lieutenant white man or better yet, the captain a white man, first lieutenant a white man, second lieutenant an Indian and orderly sergeant a white man. The white men to be selected from the volunteer army or from men who thoroughly understand military duties and who will work hard. It is a blunder to put men of poor ability in an Indian regiment. It requires character so that the Indians will respect him and a thorough knowledge of military duties. In a white company, if a captain and lieutenants are ignorant, perhaps some privates in the company can run it, but an Indian company improperly officered is a frightful mess.

The officers in an Indian regiment have to work very hard to get things in shape. The besetting sin of Indians is laziness.

They are brave as death, active to fight, but lazy. They ought invariably to be mounted; they make poor infantry, but first class mounted rifleman.

The third Regiment, most of the Second and half of the First entered the service with their own horses, were paid as infantry, but foraged and shod by department order of Gen. Blunt.

Their horses have nearly all been used up in the service. At this time the stock is very poor.

The Third Indian Regiment is of 12 companies of mounted riflemen and has two howitzers attached. They are only paid as infantry, but used as mounted men.

About 100 of them are on foot, as their horses have died in service. To be efficient, they ought to be mounted on Government horses in the spring. The third is armed with Mississippi and Prussian rifles. The Second, Prussian rifles and muskets and the First with hunting rifles and they have to mold their bullets.

Nothing but active steps to supply necessary orders can save the First Indian Regiment from utter demoralization. My orders to drill are disregarded. As I compel the regiments to draw on consolidated provision returns, I have difficulty in getting reports from them. I am much embarrassed. As arresting all the officers of a regiment is not to be thought of and permitting it to run loose has a bad effect on the rest. I earnestly desire instructions and the necessary authority to myself or some others. In the meantime, I shall do the best I can.

With Great Respect,

Wm. A. Phillips

Colonel, Commanding Third Brigade.

Now then, Col. Phillips’ report was brutally honest and eventually he received the “instructions and necessary authority” to correct all of the identified deficiencies. As a result of this, all three regiments of Indian Home Guards compiled an excellent service record for the balance of the war, and of course, the war went on!

In the American Civil War, most notably in Missouri, the use of standard military tactics as a method of fighting was a far second place to that of guerrilla fighting. Why was this method of fighting preferred and what was the real reason behind it? Guerrilla warfare was actually the method used by the American patriots in the Revolutionary War. Few battles were fought in standard military fashion, and this was a major reason for the American victory – the British troops simply were not prepared to handle this type of warfare and believed the Americans to be fighting in and “ungentlemanly’ manner.

Author Bruce Nichols believes, in the case of the Civil War, that there were five primary motives – bitterness, anger, hope, desperation and excitement.

The first reason, bitterness, was probably the one that was primarily the main motivator, but is overlooked as a military reason and viewed more as the actions of criminals, which in many cases was true. Union Major General John M. Schofield stated that “…the bitter feelings between the border people, which feeling is the result of old feuds, and involves very little, if at all, the question of Union or disunion…” and there were plenty of examples of wrongdoings, or the notions of wrong doing, to push many men to care less about the state of the Union, but rather, how to enact retribution on this perceived wrong doing.

The perfect example is the collapse of the makeshift prison in Kansas City that housed female family members of Missouri bushwhackers. The prison collapsed under questionable circumstances, killing and maiming some of the women housed there. William T. “Bloody Bill” Anderson lost one sister and had another one maimed and it is said this single event pushed him over the edge. He wrote in 1864, “I have chosen guerrilla warfare to revenge myself for wrongs I could not honorably avenge otherwise.” There was also instances of Union troops, some made up of Kansan “Red-Legs” who were enacting their own vengeance on the Missourians, burning, killing, and destroying farms and families that drove some Confederate soldiers to desert in order to return for vengeance as a guerrilla.

The second reason, anger, Nichols points out as being from some “tyranny real or imagined” and points to things such as the suspension of civil rights, occupation of the state, extremism of abolitionists, the emotional issue of slavery, raids on Missourians by Kansas Jayhawkers, the use of German immigrants, the Federal government calling for a draft, and finally, sensational southern press and it’s censoring by the Union authorities.

In Part II, we’ll continue with the other three motivating reasons: hope, desperation and excitement.

On September 24, 1864, Confederate General Sterling Price and his troops arrived in the small railhead town of Pilot Knob Missouri on a trek to regain Missouri for the Confederacy and divert troops from the struggling Eastern Theater of battle. His infamous raid took him from southeast Missouri through the center of the state and then briefly into Kansas whereupon what was left of his army began retreating into Arkansas, sealing that fate of the country west of the Mississippi to the Union.

That was 150 years ago this year. As the sesquicentennial has arrived it is interesting to see what events are being planned across this infamous path that Price travelled. Some portions appear to have embraced their significance and will be planning events, while smaller locations, no less significant however, seem to be passing this anniversary by.

Last year on my Facebook group Civil War in Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas, I made the statement that I had a bold plan of travelling Price’s route on the anniversary of this event. Unfortunately, I am not seeing a whole lot of activity at locations where there should be.

The Reenactment of the Battle of Pilot Knob, however is indeed hosting a major event at the Fort Davidson Historic Site. The event will take place on Friday, September 26th and last to Sunday, September 28th. I have been invited by a Civil War reenactor friend of mine to “put on the wool” and join him in his artillery unit. I’m still working on that but hoping to be able to get my uniform and gear in order before it becomes too late. But regardless, my travel will start at Pilot Knob.

From there the path lead to a small town in south-central Missouri called Leasburg, where the retreating Union army took a stand against the pursuing Confederates. From what I have been told, nothing is being planned at the location, which is a shame.

From there the next major stop would be at Boonville, MO. along the Missouri River. Unfortunately, it does not appear that anything will be happening here as well.

The next stop would be Lexington. So far, no information on an event held here as well.

From there the retreating Confederates would duke it out in Westport, MO, knows as the “Gettysburg of the West”. There will sesquicentennial events there on Saturday October 25th. http://www.battleofwestport150.org/

From this point on the Confederates were on the run and on October 25th would face their final demise at Mine Creek and Marmiton River. There will be a significant 150th event held at the Mine Creek Battlefield SHS near Pleasanton KS Saturday, October 18, 2014. More information will be forthcoming at the Kansas Historical Society webpage.

In full retreat, the Confederates had one final engagement on October 28th at the second battle of Newtonia, MO. CSA General J.O. Shelby held off the Federals and allowed Price and the rest of the Confederates to safely retreat into the Indian Territory and finally to Laynesport AR ending what turned out to be a disastrous endeavor from the outset.

There are other stops along the way that were much smaller engagements, such as Glasgow, or not directly linked with Prices Raid such as Centralia and Richmond that are also having events in 2014. It saddens me that some of the sites of more importance are letting this anniversary pass. The next anniversary, the Bicentennial, I will probably not be around to see (I would be 97). I remember the Bicentennial of the American Revolution in 1976, and I hope that on the Bicentennial of Prices Raid there is more effort put into the significance of the event.

It’s been a while since I put anything on this site, so I figured I would write about my research regarding the Civil War and my ancestors.

On the maternal side I have the most who served during the war. My 2nd great grandfather was 2nd Lieutenant George W. Brown, CO. K 12th Wisconsin Infantry. He enlisted 31 August 1861 as a corporal, was promoted to 1st Sergeant and on 11 February 1865 promoted to 2LT. He mustered out on 16 July 1865. The 12th Wisconsin Infantry was organized between October 18 and December 13, 1861, at Camp Randall in Madison. The regiment left Wisconsin for Fort Leavenworth,Kansas, on January 11, 1862, arriving on February 16. During its service, the regiment moved through Missouri, Kentucky, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, and Washington D.C. It participated in the sieges of Jackson, Atlanta and Savannah, and fought in the battles of Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta and Jonesboro and also participated in Sherman’s March to the Sea. The regiment mustered out on July 20, 1865, at Louisville, Kentucky. It lost 323 men during service. Three officers and 93 enlisted men were killed. Three officers and 224 enlisted men died from disease.

My 4th great grandfather, Hiram Tye Shirrell served in CO. G, 31st Indiana Infantry from 5 September 1861 until 8 December 1865. His son, my 3rd great grandfather, William Henry Shirrell, served in CO. G, 18th Indiana Infantry from 16 August 1861 and was discharged for disability, no date given.

My 4th great grandfather Richard Wade Bond, had two brothers and three sons serve in the Civil War. His brothers, Samuel R. Bond served as a 1LT with CO. A 87th Illinois Infantry and his brother Moses Bond a private with CO. F 1st Regiment Missouri Light Artillery Volunteers respectively.

Richard Bond’s three oldest sons, Jesse Franklin (my 3rd great grandfather), Wiley W. and Reuben Shirly all served in the war. Reuben was a private with CO. G 154th Illinois Infantry. Wiley was also a private with CO. G 154th Illinois Infantry and died in a battle in Murfreesboro TN. on 15 March 1865.

My 3rd great grandfather Jesse, mustered in a private on 13 August 1862 with the 87th Illinois Infantry and was discharged for disability on 6 June 1863. However, he was able to re-enlist as a sergeant with CO. G 154th Illinois Infantry on 16 February 1865 and mustered out with the unit on 18 September 1865 in Nashville, TN.

On the paternal side, my 2nd great grandfather, Joseph D. Burchett was a private in Cochrans Bollinger County Volunteer Missouri Militia under Capt. J. R. Cochran in Bollinger County Missouri from 17 March 1865 until 8 July 1865.

So far, all of my ancestors fought for the Union and represented four states, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois and Missouri.