One of the most vehement attacks on Order No. 11 was delivered by General Frank P. Blair in St. Louis. Blair was astonished that a commander could lay waste a large section of Missouri by means of devastation, rapine and murder simply because Ewing lacked the courage to follow Quantrill. “It is the subterfuge of an imbecile,” remarked Blair. Blair continued by pointing out that 20,000 citizens were being punished because Ewing lacked the power or ability to seek out the 400 or 500 outlaws and murderers. Ewing had instead found it necessary to punish helpless people and destroy one of the finest sections of Missouri.19
It is significant that the first Governor of Kansas, Charles Robinson, concurred that Order No. 11 cast much cruelty upon the people of Missouri. Robinson, a Kansan, was a strong defender of the conduct of Kansas troops but vigorously attacked the role played by the “Red-legs” in Missouri. Robinson’s criticism of fellow Kansans should not be taken lightly.20
One of Quantrill’s officers, William Gregg, said that Order No. 11, “issued by the monster of monsters, General Ewing,” caused the people of Jackson County to suffer great hardships, by being forced to leave their homes with no money or food.”21 It is reasonable to assume that when 20,000 people are forced to leave their homes with so little, considerable suffering will occur. The cruelty of the Jayhawkers did not go unnoticed by the Missouri government. Governor Hamilton Gamble, as reported in the Missouri Democrat of 30 September, authorized the arming of men in some of the western counties to protect them- selves from raiding parties. The real leader of opposition against Ewing was Missouri State Treasurer George Caleb Bingham. Governor Gamble or Jered Bingham to Kansas City to see what could be done following the Lawrence massacre. Bingham went to Ewing’s headquarters in Kansas City and demanded that Order No. 11 be rescinded. Upon Ewing’s refusal to retract the Order, Bingham is reported to have said, “If you persist in executing that order, I will make you infamous with pen and brush as far as I am able.”22
George Bingham made good his promise. His large painting entitled “Order Number Eleven” which shows Ewing astride his horse supervising his troops as they brutally expel Missourians from their homes presents an interpretation of Ewing’s actions which is today generally accepted. The painting depicts a “Kansas Jayhawker” who has just shot a young man and is about to shoot an older man disregarding the pleas of a young girl begging for the life of the elderly gentlemen. Colonel Jennison is pictured with a number of blankets on his horse; he plans apparently to re- turn to Kansas with this booty. In the background is a funeral-like procession of people leaving their homes; columns of smoke from their burning homes and fields rise around them. This painting, as Albert Castel has pointed out, “did more than anything else to create the popular conception of Order No. 11.”23
Richard C. Vaughan, in a letter to Edward Bates, Attorney General of the United States, 28 August 1863, wrote that hundreds of loyal Union men in Jackson and Cass counties were being insulted, robbed, and even murdered. The implementation policy, he said, has caused many good men to leave their homes and seek protection in the brush. Many, he added, joined the guerrillas to insure their own safety.
Even staunch supporters of Order No. 11 saw the severity of its enforcement. Lawrence newspaper editor John Speer wrote, “Neither Sherman in his march to the sea, nor Butler at New Orleans, exceeded it in severity, but it was a just severity, conscientiously administrated by a just man. It was the extreme of humanity com- pared with the fiendish slaughters concocted and carried out by the community which it punished.24
The reaction of the South to Order No. 11 was as could be expected. Order No. 11 was not only denounced but it led to demands that guerrilla activities be increased as reported in the Daily Dispatch of Richmond, Virginia on 1 September, 1863:
The savage and inhuman measures adopted by the Yankees to put down guerrilla warfare proves that this mode of defending a country other- wise unprotected is more annoying and more dreaded by them than any other. . . . Let the guerrilla system . . . be thoroughly carried out, and if the barbarous retaliate . . . let the guerrillas, without waiting for orders exact an eye for an eye and a life for a life.
The Lexington Union on 5 September, 1863, centered its attack both on the cruelty of the order and on the possibility that the number of counties to be depopulated would be increased. It was feared that Order No. 11 might be expanded to the next tier of counties and then the next. The Union, as did many Missourians, feared an in- crease in the control the military had over local and state governments.
Ewing cannot be excused for not knowing what was going on. The enforcement was taking place only a few miles from his headquarters in Kansas City. Ewing had ridden through the district with General Schofield on his way to speak at Independence, Missouri. Many of the dislocated people of the district were flocking to Kansas City to depart for new homes. The press, alone, with its criticism of the enforcement procedure should have made Ewing aware of what was taking place. Ewing, himself, had ordered his men to track and find the bush- whackers and to take no prisoners. Another example of the extreme measures Ewing took is evidenced by his request to General Schofield made 18 September, 1863. The steamer Marcella had been stopped by guerrillas, and three Union soldiers had been shot. Ewing reported, “I have guerrillas here, convicted and unconvicted. Shall I retaliate?” Schofield’s answer was that, in his opinion, it would be just, but unwise, as it was too easy for the guerrillas to find victims for revenge.
The Official Records indicated that Ewing did little to stop the plundering until General Orders, No. 16, issued 2 October, 1863. Four days later, Ewing wrote Colonel William Weer: “There is a good deal of feeling against me already amongst Missourians. Don’t let the troops take stock except from guerrillas.” He also told Weer to leave General E. B. Brown’s people alone and reminded Weer that the second tier of counties was now in his district.25
Perhaps Ewing should not take the blame alone. The dilemma in which he found himself placed was not of his making. The cruelty of any war and especially of a civil war is great. The duration of violence was longer on the Kansas-Missouri border than in any other section during the Civil War. The “total war” of the border had begun early and ended late, as many guerrillas continued their professions as bank and train robbers. The “no holds barred” attitude of the combatants, the lack of civil authority, the political struggles among leaders, both military and civil, all added to Ewing’s woes.

To judge the effectiveness of Order No. 11 a look at guerrilla activity after the order was issued is necessary. We find that it did curtail guerrilla activity in Ewing’s district, but it did not stop it. The guerrillas simply moved into central Missouri in 1864 following their return from wintering in the South. The order may have stopped any future raids into Kansas, but the borders were also better guarded and the people of Kansas better prepared after the raid on Lawrence in 1863, and this might have been the discouraging factor. The order did cause the guerrillas to move south a little earlier than usual. As to its effectiveness then we can only conclude that Order No. 11 cur- tailed guerrilla activity in western Missouri by moving it to central Missouri.
To justify Order No. l1 as necessary is a different matter. First, the people involved were citizens of the State of Missouri and the United States, not the Confederacy. Although regulations regarding martial law are not covered in our Constitution, there is no doubt that the citizens of Missouri lost a great many of their personal liberties. General Ewing undoubtedly believed the order was justified; even so, he could have enforced Order No. 11 with disciplined Iowa, Illinois, or Colorado troops rather than with the revenge-seeking Kansans. As indicated by this paper, the Order made many loyal Missourians turn to the guerrillas for protection and caused many others to leave the state. The drastic acts of cruelty could only have been committed by angry, revenge-seeking men on both sides.
The timing of the order was unfortunate and created much hardship. Most of these people were small farmers with crops in their fields, little money, no place to go, no means of transportation, and many of the men were away fighting for the Confederacy or for the Union. With winter approaching and the bushwhackers “Jayhawkers” and “Red-legs,” General Orders, No. 11 – is that it contributed little to the outcome of the war. Preparing to go south, Ewing could have waited for spring to demand depopulation. It is perhaps most obvious here that Ewing was influenced by the cries of the press. The press crying for action, the Kansans for revenge, and Lane for “blood and fire” apparently influenced him to take immediate action. The order cannot be justified when, with a little more time and a little less emotionalism, a more sympathetic and effective means might have been devised to separate and remove the disloyal people from these Missouri communities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued in Part III

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued in Part II

To persons living east of the Mississippi River during the Civil War, Kansas was “that new state out west,” where land cost little and men’s lives even less. For one intrepid young settler from Illinois, his new home became the source of inspiration for a revealing collection of diaries and artwork that comprise a treasure trove for Civil War historians.

Samuel J. Reader, of Indianola, Kan., was born in Illinois in 1836. He trekked to the new territory with his aunt and her husband in 1855, and kept a running chronicle of the events in “Bleeding Kansas” in a series of annual diaries. Along with written comments about that turbulent time, Reader also included some paintings. In one of his diaries, he painted himself staking his own Kansas claim. During the Civil War, Reader carried his diary while serving as a member of the local militia. His words and art, discovered after his death in 1914, became a unique record of the war.

Shortly after his arrival at Indianola, Reader wrote that the town would never amount to much. In 1862, he complained to his family back in Illinois that “instead of laying it out on the prairie the Mo. [Missouri] proprietors laid it out mostly in timber and bushes.”

The Kansas town–named after Indianola, Texas, by its Southern-sympathizing founders–was the subject of many Reader paintings. He depicted all the usual frontier establishments–a sawmill, a blacksmith, two or three stores, two hotels and a couple of billiard saloons or “whiskey dens.” At the height of the town’s prosperity, lots sold for $250 or $300, with one going as high as $500. Reader commented that “intemperance is the special vice of this neighborhood” and dubbed Indianola “Whiskeytown.” He also associated the town’s saloons with the secessionist movement, all of them being owned by pro-slavery sympathizers.

Young Sam’s opinion of supporters of slavery developed after he settled in Kansas Territory. He wrote: “Rich cheap farm land was the principal incentive that lured me on from my Illinois home. I had heard and read much concerning the political troubles in the territory; but the question of a free or a slave state was a secondary consideration with me at the time. In fact, I had given little thought to the subject; viewing the ‘Peculiar Institution’ as a great wrong, but leaving its adjustment to older and wiser heads.”

The largely Southern population of Indianola inevitably brought the town into conflict with its Free State neighbors. Recalling a raid by Topeka pioneers, Reader wrote: “Our neighborhood was badly stirred up. … A party of Free-State men … took from the most rabid pro-slavery citizens, their arms and military stores; together with Sundry articles, claimed to be contraband of war. The whiskey was emptied in the street. I had no hand in it; and whether the act was justifiable or not, is not for me to say. It was called a reprisal; but two wrongs do not always make one right! … But it was reported that our ruthless enemies [Missouri border ruffians] did far worse. Besides plundering, they added, ‘fire and sword’ and numberless outrages, on Free-State men!”  

Reader, Free-Staters and the Grim Chieftan

When Reader learned that Southern-sympathizing border ruffians were about to attack the town of Grasshopper Falls–present-day Valley Falls–in the next county to the east, he joined other Free Staters under Colonel James H. Lane as they rushed to confront the raiders at a place called Hickory Point. Lane’s ragtag militia crossed the Kansas River by ferry on Friday morning, September 12, 1856. The date was recorded forever in a watercolor depiction of the momentous crossing in Reader’s diary.

After an early morning skirmish that Sunday, Reader dashed off some lines in his diary, noting that the Free Staters had arrived at Hickory Point, a short distance east of Grasshopper Falls, at about 11 in the morning. “Fired some,” and then “retreated to O[zawkie],” he noted in his diary. Reader also claimed that his side had only lost three horses and one man wounded, compared to “Several B.Rs. [border ruffians] killed.” Actually, only one Southern sympathizer died in the skirmish. With that brief triumph behind them, young Reader and his companions in the Free State company ate some watermelons and in the evening started home, “sleepy and tired but full of glory.”

But there was little glory to be found in Kansas in 1856. This was the period of “Bleeding Kansas,” which featured the fanaticism of John Brown and the death and destruction sowed by contending bands of pro-slave and Free State partisans. During that one year in Reader’s Kansas county, three houses were ruined, 46 horses were stolen, and 67 head of cattle were rustled. But the federal government, from whom the people sought relief, never compensated the victims of either side, Reader recorded, and the claims passed into history and myth.

A number of Lane’s Free State militiamen involved in the raids were arrested that fall and imprisoned in the territorial capital, Lecompton, and the small neighboring town of Tecumseh–both Southern strongholds. Most were acquitted. At one time the jail in Tecumseh housed some 47 prisoners. About 10 o’clock on the night of November 21, 1856, about 30 of them escaped “by pegging a hole in the wall and crawling out like rats,” recounted the proSouth publication Lecompton Union on December 11. Officers caught one fellow halfway out and towed him back in. His excuse, “I am following the rest.”

Shortly after Kansas Territory became a state, its citizens experienced the myriad trials of civil war. The war, which broke out at Fort Sumter, S.C., three months after Kansas entered the Union, took a heavy toll on Union-loving volunteers. Reader wrote that “a great many farms are not cultivated in this section for want of working men.” Such a severe shortage of manpower existed in the entire state by the middle of the war that Governor Thomas Carney felt it necessary to caution recruiting officers to go more slowly in their efforts.  

Reader himself did not immediately enlist in one of the Kansas volunteer regiments. Instead, he served in the Union militia, which had formed during the territorial period, and subsequently took part in the bloodless “Battle of Indianola” and another confrontation at Hickory Point.

On the home front, Reader became an astute social observer in his letters and diaries. For example, in a letter dated January 19, 1862, he wrote to his brother that he had recently been in Topeka, where he “saw quite a number of negroes employed by its citizens. They looked intelligent and happy. I believe they have 15 or 20 there but none have come over on this side of the [Kansas] river, yet, that is.”

His social observations were sometimes tinged with martial language: One day, when a prostitute quarreled with the more respectable ladies of Indianola, the outraged reaction provided Reader with the opportunity to exercise his wit in his diary. The “fancy lady, to use no harsher term … established her headquarters in Billy P[russeit]’s shoemaker shop,” he observed. Five of the town’s womenfolk, “after holding a council of war determined on a vigorous policy, and forth-with set out for little Bill’s house. … The attacking force filed through the gate and by a skillful maneuver gained possession of the backdoor without the loss of a man (or woman rather).”

Immediately following the sack of Lawrence by William Clarke Quantrill, the citizens of many Kansas towns understandably feared a similar fate, and they organized Union militia companies to protect themselves. Elizabeth Reader, a resident of Indianola and relative of Samuel, wrote that the militia members continued to meet and drill until the fall of 1864. In that “Secesh” town, even some of the former pro-slavery men joined with the Unionist militiamen to make up Company D of the Shawnee County regiment.

The Shawnee County unit was designated the 2nd Regiment, Kansas State Militia, with Colonel George W. Veale commanding. The 2nd Kansas was brigaded later with the Lawrence unit, men who had suffered at the hands of Rebel guerrillas. A log stockade was erected in the center of Topeka as a refuge to which Shawnee County residents might flee if guerrillas appeared. And since Topeka had become the state capital, the city’s residents were sure it was a prime bushwhacker target.

Sterling Price’s Great Raid of 1864

Confederate Maj. Gen. Sterling Price invaded Missouri in September 1864. As he led three divisions of cavalry across the state where he had once been governor, Kansans watched anxiously to see if he would turn east toward St. Louis and the Mississippi River or west to capture Fort Leavenworth and plunder Kansas.  

Reader continued making entries into his diary that month as Governor Carney called out the militia. A lieutenant and quartermaster of the regiment, Reader reported on equipping the 2nd Kansas. Reader’s unit was ordered to assemble at Olathe on the Kansas-Missouri border, along with 10 other militia regiments. Each outfit had to provide its own transportation and rations. Members of each regiment were supplied with “two blankets, a tin cup, knife and fork, and a haversack,” Reader noted. In addition, Reader participated in the distribution of new Enfield rifles in place of the old and nearly worthless carbines that had been issued directly following the Lawrence raid.

Two days after the militia was called out, martial law was declared and every man between the ages of 18 and 60 was ordered to arms. On the morning of October 12, the 2nd Kansas moved out for Missouri. Reader took his diary along on the march, illustrating much of the campaign with charcoal and pencils–sketches he would later flesh out with watercolors. One such painting was called 2nd K.S.M. Invading Missouri. Many of the untrained, inexperienced militiamen refused to cross the state border to meet the Confederate invasion. The Shawnee County regiment was one of the exceptions, and the men from Topeka and vicinity proved their worth during the ensuing Battle of Westport.

Another painting, Night Before Battle, depicts the campsite of Kansans on October 21, 1864, the evening before the second day of fighting at Westport. The next day, the 2nd Kansas saw combat. The regiment waited at a shallow crossing of the Big Blue River through most of the day. Late in the afternoon, Brig. Gen. Jo Shelby’s “Iron Brigade” of Missouri cavalry broke through Union lines while attempting a flanking movement. Shelby’s Missourians ran headlong into the 2nd Kansas. The regiment held its ground without aid against vastly superior numbers for nearly an hour in what became known as the Battle of the Blue.

Reader fought among the embattled Kansans and later would commemorate in words and pictures the brave stand that repulsed the Confederate advance into Kansas. The 2nd Kansas counted 24 killed, 20 wounded and 88 taken prisoner.

Further confrontations along the border sent Price scurrying back toward the safety of Arkansas with a cache of captured arms and prisoners. Reader was one of the captured Federals. After a three-day forced march through southern Missouri, which he illustrated with a drawing he called Double-Quick, You Yankee, the 28-year-old Reader managed to escape and found shelter with a Kansas farmer. He eventually turned himself over to a company of Federal cavalry, using his diary to prove his identity. He was one of the fortunate ones–many of his fellow prisoners died of exposure and pneumonia. Years later, Reader spent time honing his artistic talent. Although he is best known as a diarist, he was also a natural artist whose work illustrated his words. In addition to the diaries he kept faithfully from age 13 until his death, he also wrote and illustrated his autobiography. The watercolors in the latter work are now considered a valuable record of the Civil War in Kansas and Missouri.

Reader used pigment ground in gum and applied with brush and water to produce some of the best Kansas art depicting the war. Most of his work was primitive, but his action scenes of the Battle of the Blue at Westport, now held by the Kansas State Historical Society, are the equal of any combat painting of the Civil War.

Reader’s reminiscences, eternized with both pen and brush, have only been partially tapped. His story of the border warfare in the state, in both pictures and words, is an invaluable glimpse into Kansas’ Civil War heritage.

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!