A New View of the Battle of Pea Ridge by Albert Castel

©Albert Castel, published with permission

“A NEW VIEW OF THE BATTLE OF PEA RIDGE”

by Albert Castel

Copyright 1968 Albert Castel. Used with Permission.

This is copyrighted material–the article, the pictures, and the introduction–and may not be copied or reproduced in any form, including on other websites, without permission of the authors.
Books by Albert Castel

available from Amazon.com

Articles of War: Winners, Losers, and Some Who Were Both During the Civil War

Tom Taylor’s Civil War

General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West

Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla

William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times

Decision in the West

More books by Albert Castel

Introduced by G. E. Rule

Albert Castel, over a published career that is approaching fifty years, has proven himself to be the leading historian of the Civil War in the West. With titles like General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West (1968), William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times (1962), and Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla (with Thomas Goodrich, 1998), none of those who are serious about studying the war in Missouri can consider themselves well-read on the subject if they have not read Castel. His other titles on the war in the West will also be read for many years to come, and his Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 (1992) is an award-winning title that is likely to remain the definitive statement on what was arguably the most important campaign of the war. Dr. Castel’s most recent title, Articles of War: Winners, Losers, and Some Who Were Both in the Civil War, Stackpole Books, 2001, is available from Amazon.com.

“A New View of the Battle of Pea Ridge” originally appeared in the Missouri Historical Review 62/2 (State Historical Society of Missouri, January 1968). While this article offers a solid accounting of the battle itself, where it strikes hardest at the accepted conventional wisdom is in its analysis of the aftermath. Many participants and historians have anointed Pea Ridge as the defining moment of the war in the Trans-Mississippi. Castel disagrees, and makes a solid case that larger forces both before and after this battle determined the course of events in Missouri and Arkansas. One could speculate that the morale boost of a Southern victory at Elkhorn Tavern might have changed the calculus of the Confederate high command that Castel points at as one of his key arguments. Possibly. Given the urgent demands elsewhere, however, it could just as easily been used as an excuse to strip a suddenly “secured” Arkansas –where there is a will to find a reason to do what they want to do, political leaders will usually find it.



Because it was important, dramatic, and one of the few major engagements of the Civil War west of the Mississippi, the Battle of Pea Ridge (otherwise known as Elkhorn Tavern) has been described numerous times, both in general works and special articles.[1] Thus to offer yet another account of it would at first glance seem superfluous, even presumptuous. The only valid scholarly excuse for doing so is the presentation of new facts and fresh interpretations.

Active military operations in the Trans-Mississippi began in June, 1861, when Union forces under General Nathaniel Lyon occupied northern and central Missouri and drove the pro-Confederate Missouri State Guard commanded by Major General Sterling Price into the southwest corner of the State. Two months later Price, in conjunction with a Confederate army under Brigadier General Ben McCulloch, defeated and killed Lyon at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek near Springfield. Following this success, Price marched to the Missouri River, hoping to spark a popular uprising against Federal rule. He besieged and captured a Union garrison at Lexington, but soon had to retreat again to southern Missouri in the face of a much superior force under Major General John C. Fremont. Fremont pursued Price almost to the Arkansas border and was set to engage him in battle when relieved of command by Lincoln, who ordered his successor to withdraw to central Missouri. Price, thereupon, marched northward once more, then fell back to Springfield where he went into winter quarters. Early in February a Federal army of 12,000, commanded by Brigadier General Samuel R. Curtis, advanced on Springfield with the object of driving Price out of Missouri and occupying northwest Arkansas. Too weak to stand, Price evacuated Springfield on February 12, and fled into Arkansas, followed closely by Curtis.

The top Confederate commander in the Trans-Mississippi was Major General Earl Van Dorn. Forty-one, a Mississippian, and a West Pointer, he was brave, determined, and enterprising, but tended to be overambitious in his plans and unlucky in their execution. On assuming his command he had been instructed by General Albert Sidney Johnston, head of all Confederate armies west of the Appalachians, to invade Missouri as a means of relieving Union pressure in Kentucky and Tennessee. He was at Pocahontas, Arkansas, preparing for a movement against St. Louis when, on February 22, news reached him that Curtis had pushed Price out of Missouri. He at once sent orders to McCulloch, whose army was at Fort Smith, and to Brigadier General Albert Pike, commanding Confederate forces in the Indian Territory, to join Price. Then, accompanied by a small staff, he set out on horseback to take personal charge of operations. He was confident that he would defeat Curtis, after which he would “push on” into Missouri.[2]

Meanwhile Price continued to retreat until he reached Cove Creek, where he linked up with McCulloch. Curtis, on orders from Major General Henry W. Halleck, Union commander in the West, halted his pursuit at Fayetteville. On the night of March 1, Van Dorn arrived at Price’s headquarters after an arduous journey during which he had become stricken with chills and fever as a result of falling into an icy stream. The next day he took command of “The Army of the West,” as he dubbed the combined forces of McCulloch and Price.

To Van Dorn the Union invasion of Arkansas represented an opportunity rather than a danger. Curtis had moved far from his base into thinly populated, mountainous country, and in order to obtain food and forage had dispersed his forces widely. If he could be attacked before he regrouped, he would not merely be defeated but destroyed, and the way opened to St. Louis. Accordingly Van Dorn’s first order to the Army of the West was to prepare three days rations and make ready to march.[3]

On March 4, the Confederates traveled northward on the Telegraph Road, the main highway of the region, connecting Fort Smith, Van Buren, Fayetteville, Bentonville, and Springfield. At Elm Springs, on the afternoon of the following day, they were joined by Pike’s Indian Brigade. This brought Van Dorn’s total strength to about 16,000 men, supported by 60 cannons. Nearly 7,000 of this number consisted of Price’s Missourians, organized into two regular Confederate brigades and several so-called divisions of State Guards. The brigades were commanded by Colonel Henry Little and Brigadier General W. Y. Slack and were the best drilled and equipped of Price’s units. The State Guard contingents, on the other hand, were indifferently armed and poorly disciplined, but like most of the Missourians they had acquired some battle experience.[4] Price himself was a man of magnificent physical presence and outstanding courage whose soldiers affectionately called him “Ol’ Pap.” Despite his victories he possessed at most only mediocre military ability, but was shrewd and cool in combat.

McCulloch’s division contained slightly over 8,000 Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas troops organized into an infantry brigade under Colonel Louis Hebert and a cavalry brigade under Brigadier General James McIntosh. McCulloch was a professional soldier who had gained fame as leader of the Texas Rangers in the Mexican War, and he shared with Price the honors of Wilson’s Creek. Unfortunately, however, he and Price had quarreled over the conduct of operations in Missouri and were barely on speaking terms.

The Indian Brigade, 1,000 strong, was attached to McCulloch’s division. Aside from a squadron of Texas cavalry it consisted of semi-civilized Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles, their faces daubed with warpaint. The Indians totally lacked discipline, and were in large part armed only with tomahawks and warclubs. Their commander, long-haired and bewhiskered Pike, was a prominent Arkansas politician and an accomplished poet, but by no stretch of the imagination a soldier.[5]

In the meantime Curtis had retired to Bentonville and then, after learning of Van Dorn’s advance, to the north bank of Sugar Creek, an excellent defensive position at the southern base of Pea Ridge Mountain near the now extinct hamlet of Leetown. Here he began concentrating his scattered units behind a line of log and dirt breastworks running across the Telegraph Road, up which he expected the Confederates to deliver their attack. He chose to stand on the defensive, as his army had been reduced by the attrition of campaigning to less than 10,500 effectives and he believed that Van Dorn greatly outnumbered him. However the Federals possessed a large, well-served artillery train and the infantry—mainly Indiana, Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri Unionist troops—were better drilled and equipped than the majority of the Southern foot soldiers. As a general, Curtis was slow and unimaginative, but at the same time steady and tenacious. His army was organized into four divisions of two brigades each, commanded by Brigadier General Alexander Asboth, Colonel Eugene A. Carr, Colonel Jefferson C. Davis, and Colonel Peter J. Osterhaus. Two of these divisions, Asboth’s and Osterhaus’, were under Brigadier General Franz Sigel, who was second-in-command to Curtis.[6]

Sigel’s two divisions still lingered at Bentonville on March 5. Informed of this by scouts, Van Dorn pushed forward on the morning of March 6 with the intention of gobbling them up before they fell back to Sugar Creek. But, according to his own report, the Confederate troops “marched so very slowly” and their officers handled them so ineptly that the attempt failed.[7] On the other hand one of the Missouri soldiers recalled doing the last ten miles to Bentonville “at double quick,”[8] and Sigel declared that he was never in any danger of being cut off, having received ample warning of Van Dorn’s approach.[9] In any case, as the Confederates entered Bentonville from the south, Sigel’s rear guard left it on the north. McIntosh’s cavalry pursued vigorously, but Sigel (who specialized in retreating) made good his escape with little difficulty. Dusk found the Army of the West strung out along the road between Bentonville and Sugar Creek. On the other side of that stream the Union forces waited tensely but confidently for the Confederates to attack on the morrow.[10]

Van Dorn had failed to catch Curtis’ army in a dispersed condition. Moreover his troops were tired, hungry, and cold, and he himself suffering so severely from his illness that he was obliged to ride in an ambulance. Nevertheless he remained determined to strike the invaders a crushing blow. Indeed, the only alternative to battle was ignominious retreat.

Late in the afternoon he conferred with Price, McCulloch, and McIntosh. Price favored attacking Curtis from the south and west on his right flank, driving him from his position and finishing him off with cavalry as he retreated into Missouri.[11] McCulloch and McIntosh, on the other hand, proposed a much more ambitious plan: Swinging the army around Curtis’ right flank by way of the Bentonville Detour, a rough dirt trail which branched off from the Telegraph Road to the west then rejoined it northeast of Pea Ridge about two miles above the Elkhorn Tavern—a distance in all of some eight miles. In this fashion the Confederates would not only be able to surprise Curtis and attack him from the rear, but would cut his line of retreat to the north and force him to fight under circumstances in which defeat meant destruction. Van Dorn adopted this second plan, which, if successful, would be a maneuver worthy of Napoleon.[12]

The Confederates masked their flanking march by throwing out pickets, lighting camp fires, and pretending to bivouac for the night south of Sugar Creek. Then, as soon as it was dark, they reformed in line of march and moved off on the Bentonville Detour. Price’s division, accompanied by Van Dorn, took the lead, followed by McCulloch and Pike. Five hundred of McCulloch’s troops and 1,500 Missouri State Guards, all under Brigadier General Martin Green, remained behind to protect the wagon train. Consequently Van Dorn took with him approximately 14,000 men.

Van Dorn calculated that Price’s division would reach the Telegraph Road by sunrise—certainly it should not take more than eight hours to march eight miles, even at night. But Curtis had foreseen the possibility of an enemy turning movement along the Bentonville detour and had ordered it obstructed with fallen trees. The necessity of removing these obstructions greatly slowed the Confederate march. In addition, Van Dorn had neglected to make any provision for crossing Sugar Creek, with the result that his soldiers had to pass over a hastily constructed bridge of rails and poles, causing further delay. Thus it was that when the sun began to rise Price was still several miles from the Telegraph Road, and McCulloch and Pike had not even gotten all their troops across Sugar Creek.[13]

Curtis, meanwhile, was deceived by the Confederate campfires into believing that Van Dorn would oblige him with a frontal assault. Also, despite his precaution against a flanking movement, he failed to station pickets on the Bentonville detour. Consequently not until about 8 A.M. did he discover that the Confederates had given him the slip and were in the act of turning his right flank. But fortunately for him, Price did not reach the Telegraph Road until nearly 10 A.M., thus giving him ample time in which to redeploy his forces. Three of the Union divisions—Asboth’s, Osterhaus’, and Davis’—formed a line west and north of Leetown facing the Bentonville detour, and the fourth division, Carr’s, moved up the Telegraph Road to the Elkhorn Tavern.[14] These dispositions meant that Pea Ridge would be a battle in which the Southerners attacked from the north and the Northerners from the south—an untypical yet not unique situation in the Civil War.

Van Dorn had intended to strike down the Telegraph Road with his entire army. But when McCulloch saw that it would take several more hours to get his division into position he obtained permission from Van Dorn to turn off the Bentonville detour and attack west of Pea Ridge.[15] As a consequence the Confederates went into battle in two widely separated wings which, because of the intervening bulk of Pea Ridge, were unable to see each other or communicate readily. The right wing, under McCulloch, advanced against what was now Curtis’ left (Osterhaus, Davis, and Asboth). The other wing, headed by Price, marched down the Telegraph Road through a deep valley until it came in view of the Union right (Carr) stationed on a plateau north of the Elkhorn Tavern.

As the Missourians advanced, Van Dorn told Price that McCulloch would attack on the other side of Pea Ridge. Price, surprised and disturbed, declared that this would enable the enemy to concentrate against each wing separately. Van Dorn replied that Price was right, but that it was now too late to do anything about it.[16]

Price deployed his troops, which totaled about 5,500, with eight batteries of light artillery, into the line of battle. Slack’s and Little’s brigades moved to the right and two State Guard divisions under Brigadier Generals James R. Rains and Daniel M. Frost debouched to the left. All moved forward and occupied some heights on either side of the road, gaining thereby commanding positions from which to assault the Union line. Price enjoyed a two-to-one superiority in numbers over Carr, and his soldiers drove forward vigorously, slowly pushing the stubborn Northern infantry back. Little’s brigade spearheaded the attack, while Colonel Grenville M. Dodge’s Iowans were the mainstay of the defense. Slack fell mortally wounded and Price suffered painful flesh wounds but remained on the field. In a final charge just before sundown Little’s brigade drove the Federals beyond Elkhorn Tavern and seized two cannons.[17]

At this juncture, according to the testimony of Colonel Dabney H. Maury, Van Dorn’s chief of staff, the Union forces fled in disorganized rout, but Price “stopped the pursuit and ordered his troops to fall back to take up a position for the night,” thus throwing away a golden opportunity to crush the Union right and win the battle.[18] Maury was in a position to know whereof he wrote, and Union sources admit that Carr’s ranks were wavering. But Price did not suspend the battle until darkness fell; Carr by then had been reinforced by Asboth’s division, and other Federal units were within supporting distance. Hence if Price had continued to attack, chances are he would not have achieved anything decisive, and he might well have suffered a bloody repulse. As it was his weary but exultant Missourians felt that they had done a good day’s work, and they were confident of completing their victory in the morning.

Unknown to them, however, the right wing had met with disaster. McCulloch encountered Osterhaus’ division in some open fields north of Leetown. Apparently hoping to catch the Federals off balance, he attacked at once, throwing in his regiments one by one as they came up. The Indians, in a wild rush, captured a Union battery and caused some of Osterhaus’ advance units to flee in confusion. However the Indians stopped fighting and began plundering and—at least in a few instances—scalping the enemy dead. Suddenly they came under artillery fire. Panic-stricken, they scurried into the woods, from which they refused to budge. Concurrently the white troops, although putting great pressure on Osterhaus, never attacked with sufficient strength and coordination to gain a decision.

Early in the afternoon Davis’ division reinforced Osterhaus. Soon the Confederates began to waver under the murderous Union volleys. Recklessly exposing himself, McCulloch rallied his men for another charge. Then, a perfect target in his dove-colored coat, he tumbled from his horse, a bullet through his heart. McIntosh also was killed and Colonel Hebert taken prisoner. The loss of their leaders dismayed the Southerners, and a strong Union counter­attack on the left flank routed them. Pike and Colonel Ellsworth Greer of the Third Texas Cavalry, on whom command now devolved, managed to collect the fleeing fragments and lead them by way of the Bentonville detour to Van Dorn during the night. Fortunately for the defeated and demoralized Confederates, the immediate necessity of reinforcing his hard pressed right made it impossible for Curtis to follow up this victory.[19]

That night Van Dorn took stock of the situation and found it far from encouraging. Half of his army had been routed, the men were famished and bone-tired, and the artillery and cavalry horses “beaten out.” But worst of all, owing to the “strange and criminal mistake” of an unknown ordnance officer the reserve ammunition train had gone back to Bentonville: This meant that it would be impossible to replenish the army’s nearly exhausted ammunition supply. Nevertheless he resolved to “accept the gage” of battle on the morrow and hope for the best.[20]

The fighting resumed at dawn. Curtis’ entire army now confronted Price’s troops and such remnants of McCulloch’s division as could be brought into action. The Federals took the offensive, advancing slowly but steadily under the cover of their powerful batteries. Then Van Dorn, deciding that in view of his rapidly dwindling ammunition supply it would be suicidal to continue the battle, ordered a retreat by way of the Huntsville Road.[21] According to the official Confederate reports this movement was made in an orderly and deliberate fashion. However, some of the Southern artillery fled in panic across the Missouri line before returning,[22] Pike’s troops were not even notified of the retreat but were left to fend for themselves,[23] and according to one of his soldiers Van Dorn himself became so excited that he sent word to General Green to destroy the wagon train to prevent the enemy from capturing it—an order that Green fortunately ignored.[24] For the Federals were too battered and exhausted to follow up their victory with a vigorous pursuit—or at least so Curtis believed. Had they done so, complete destruction of the Army of the West probably would have ensued.

For a week the Confederates retreated, passing through Huntsville, then turning toward Van Buren. Hundreds of cold, hungry, and discouraged soldiers deserted or straggled, and blood dripping from the wounded congealed into icicles. Finally, on March 16, they reached Van Buren, “weak, broken down, and exhausted.”[25] Here they remained for the rest of the month, reorganizing, reinforcing and recuperating. Casualties at Pea Ridge were reported as between 800 and 1,000 dead and wounded, plus 200-300 missing, but these figures refer mainly to Price’s division, so undoubtedly the total loss was considerably higher. On the Union side slightly in excess of one-tenth of Curtis’ army was killed, wounded, or missing, and it was some time before it resumed active operations. And when it did, it did not push deeper into Arkansas but instead retired to Missouri.[26]

The Confederate defeat at Pea Ridge was essentially the result of a failure on Van Dorn’s part to adjust quickly and appropriately to unanticipated situations. As noted, Van Dorn in his battle plan proposed to strike the Federal rear at daylight. When it became apparent, as it soon must have, that Price’s division would not reach the Telegraph Road by that time, he should have abandoned this portion of his plan and hurled the bulk of his army on Curtis’ west flank, at the same time sending a smaller force to block the Union escape route to the north. In this way he would have achieved full tactical surprise against Curtis and avoided the fatal gap between the two wings of his army. As it was, Curtis had sufficient time in which to react to the Confederate maneuver, and (as Price had feared) he was able to use his interior lines to deal with McCulloch and Price separately and in sequence.[27]

Indeed it could be argued that Van Dorn would have done better to have adopted Price’s suggestion of simply attacking the Union right flank at Sugar Creek. By so doing he would have avoided the complications and great risks inherent in the strategy he did pursue. For in cutting off Curtis’ army from its base he did precisely the same thing to his own army, thereby exposing it to potential disaster in case of defeat—a disaster which in fact it escaped only because of the inability (or failure) of Curtis to exploit the Union victory. On the other hand, had he employed a more modest strategy in quest of less ambitious goals he might well have defeated the Federals and imposed on them a retreat as arduous as the one his forces made to Van Buren.[28]

Most of the Confederates attributed their failure to the incredible bad luck by which McCulloch, McIntosh, and Hebert were all killed or captured. However this assumes that if these leaders had remained in action Van Dorn’s right wing would have been victorious; this at best is debatable. Moreover, by fighting his army in two widely separated halves Van Dorn created a situation in which the consequences of these three commanders being rendered hors de combat were more serious than otherwise would have been the case: Had Van Dorn been in close contact with the right wing he would have learned of McCulloch’s death in time to restore order and prevent demoralization and rout.

Van Dorn himself blamed the “disappointment” at Pea Ridge mainly on the “want of military knowledge and discipline among the higher officers” of his command. “I cannot convey to you,” he wrote the Confederate War Department shortly after the battle, “a correct idea of the material with which I have to deal in organizing an army out here. There is an absolute want of any degree of sound military information, and even an ignorance of the value of such information.” He added that if West Point-trained officers could have been substituted at Pea Ridge for “some of the highest commanders, my orders would have been promptly and intelligently carried out and the enemy’s army put to utter rout.”[29]

Undoubtedly these statements contained much truth. But Van Dorn did not name the “highest commanders” whom he considered incompetent, and his strictures probably should be discounted as representing an effort to explain away a failure which in large part was the consequence of his own blunders. Thus in his report on Pea Ridge he greatly exaggerated the Union numbers and losses, minimized his own casualties, and declared “I was not defeated, but only foiled in my intentions”—true, but scarcely the full story.[30]

The military consequences of the Pea Ridge campaign were as follows: By invading Arkansas when they did the Federals disrupted Van Dorn’s projected movement against St. Louis, and by throwing back the Confederates at Pea Ridge they ended for the time being any serious challenge to their domination over Missouri. However the significance of these two results should not be exaggerated. Regarding the first, there never was much likelihood that Van Dorn’s small and poorly equipped army could have taken St. Louis in any event. As to the second, the basic strategic decision in Missouri was rendered in June, 1861, when Lyon occupied the northern and central areas of the State and drove Price to the Arkansas border. Not only did this give the Federals control over most of the population, wealth, industry, agriculture, and transportation of Missouri, but made it virtually impossible for the South to regain control. For, as Lincoln observed,[31] the North could easily counter any Confederate invasion of Missouri by concentrating superior forces along the line of the Missouri River—which is precisely what occurred when Price captured Lexington in 1861 and again three years later when he once more penetrated the State. And, it should be added, whichever side dominated Missouri would tend to dominate the entire Trans-Mississippi, as the course of the war in that theater amply demonstrated.

Some historians have termed Pea Ridge one of the decisive battles of the Civil War because, they assert, it so discouraged the Confederates that they abandoned their effort in the West and soon after the battle transferred Van Dorn’s and Price’s forces to the east side of the Mississippi, thereby in effect conceding Missouri to the North.[32] But while it is true that the Army of the West did cross over to Tennessee in April, 1862, leaving Arkansas practically defenseless, this interpretation confuses effects with causes and also overlooks the military situation of the South as a whole at that time. Despite the setback at Pea Ridge, Van Dorn and Price did not propose to quit the struggle in the West. As soon as he reached Van Buren the indefatigable Van Dorn ordered his cavalry to cut Curtis’ communications and began preparing for a new campaign, this time against New Madrid in southeast Missouri. As for Price, on March 19 he wrote Secretary of War Judah P. Benjamin that “With such additions to my force as I am led to believe will shortly be made … I do not question my ability to penetrate aggressively the heart of Missouri.”[33] Hence there can be little doubt that within a month after Pea Ridge the Army of the West would have marched northward again had not the Confederacy needed its services elsewhere.

Late in March, Albert Sidney Johnston, fearful that the recent loss of Forts Henry and Donelson would lead to the complete collapse of Confederate resistance in Tennessee, began concentrating all available units at Corinth, Mississippi, for an attack on Grant at Pittsburgh Landing on the Tennessee River—a movement which eventuated in the great Battle of Shiloh (April 6-7, 1862). As part of this concentration of forces Johnston ordered Van Dorn on March 23 to bring the Army of the West to the other side of the Mississippi.[34] Van Dorn responded promptly and his troops began crossing the Mississippi on April 8—too late to be used at Shiloh. It was the transfer of Van Dorn’s army to the east, more than the defeat at Pea Ridge, that brought an end to any major Confederate effort in the Trans-Mississippi and rendered Missouri secure from Southern invasion. And even that but temporarily, for late in the fall of 1862 a new Confederate army in Arkansas, organized and led by General Thomas C. Hindman, was to advance northward with the intention of invading Missouri, only to be smashed at the Battle of Prairie Grove, not far from Pea Ridge.[35]

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The transfer of the Army of the West to the other side of the Mississippi meant that the Confederate high command decided to treat the Trans-Mississippi as strictly a secondary theater to be subordinated and even sacrificed if need be to the requirements of Virginia and Tennessee. Such a policy, given the military situation that existed in the spring of 1862, was probably the only practical one open to the South. And since this situation never materially improved, but got steadily worse, the policy remained in force to the end. Hence the course of the war in the West was determined largely in the East, and what took place in the West had little or no influence on events east of the Mississippi: Pea Ridge, in the final analysis, is an illustration of this fact.[36]
Notes:


[1]Some of the general histories containing accounts of the Battle of Pea Ridge are Wiley Britton, The Civil War on the Border (New York, 1899), I, 210-280; Kenneth P. Williams, Lincoln Finds A General (New York, 1952), III, 287-293; and Jay Monaghan, Civil War on the Western Border (New York, 1955), 228-251. No less than five articles on the battle have been published since 1956 in the Arkansas Historical Quarterly, the most detailed of which is Edwin C. Bearss, “The First Day at Pea Ridge, March 7, 1862,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly, XVII (Summer, 1958), 132-154, and the best of which is Walter Lee Brown, “Pea Ridge, Gettysburg of the West,” ibid., XV (Spring, 1956), 3-16.

[2]The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (128 vols., Washington, D. C., 1881-1901), Series I, Volume VIII, 283, 755, 763. Hereinafter this work will be cited as OR, with all references to Series I.

[3]Ibid., 283; Dabney H. Maury, “Recollections of the Elkhorn Campaign,” Southern Historical Society Papers, II (October, 1876), 181-185.

[4] OR, VIII, 283, 305. Price’s command at this time was in the process of being transferred into regular Confederate service, thus accounting for its irregular organization. Price himself at the time was technically a general in the Missouri State Guard.

[5]Wiley Britton, “Union and Confederate Indians in the Civil War,” in Robert U. Johnson and Clarence C. Buel, eds., Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (New York, 1887), I, 335-336; Ephraim M. Anderson, Memoirs: Historical and Personal, Including Campaigns of the First Missouri Confederate Brigade (St. Louis, 1868), 159-160.

[6]OR, VIII, 196-198, 209-210; Franz Sigel, “The Pea Ridge Campaign,” Battles and Leaders, I, 317, 337.

[7]OR, VIII, 283; Maury, “Elkhorn Campaign,” 189, asserts the same.

[8]R. S. Bevier, History of the First and Second Missouri Confederate Brigades, 1861-1865 (St. Louis, 1879), 317.

[9]Sigel, “Pea Ridge Campaign,” 320.

[10] OR, VIII, 196-198, 209-210, 283, 305.

[11] John Wilson to Francis M. Wilson, September, 1926, Francis M. Wilson Papers, 1853-1946, Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, University of Missouri, Columbia.

[12]OR, VIII, 283; Maury, “Elkhorn Campaign,” 182-183.

[13]OR, VIII, 198, 283, 287, 305, 316-317; Maury, “Elkhorn Campaign,” 187; Anderson, Memoirs, 163-164.

[14]OR, VIII, 198-199, 283-284, 287; Sigel, “Pea Ridge Campaign,” 320-321; Maury, “Elkhorn Campaign,” 187-188; Bevier, Missouri Brigades, 98.

[15]OR, VIII, 305-306, 308; Maury, “Elkhorn Campaign,” 187-189.

[16]Account of Col. R. H. Musser, St. Louis Missouri Republican, November 21, 1885. Clipping in Daniel Marsh Frost Papers, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis.

[17]OR, VIII, 305-306, 308; Anderson, Memoirs, 163-173; Sigel, “Pea Ridge Campaign,” 334, puts Price’s strength at 6,500, the Union forces opposing him at 4,500. However he did not allow for the detachment from Price’s division left at Sugar Creek, and the Union figure includes reinforcements which did not arrive until the end of the day.

[18]Maury, “Elkhorn Campaign,” 187-188.

[19]OR, VIII, 199-200, 217-218, 287-294, 293-294, 297-299; Sigel, “Pea Ridge Campaign,” 324; Britton, War on the Border, I, 224, 242-259; Washington, Arkansas, Telegraph, April 2, 1862. McCulloch fell at about 2 P.M. Pike on the Confederate right and Greer on the left both found themselves the senior officer on their respective part of the field, but neither was able to communicate with the other or had any knowledge of the other’s situation. Two Confederate regiments, not receiving any orders, retreated in the direction of Bentonville.

[20] OR, VIII, 284, 317-318; Maury, “Elkhorn Campaign,” 188; Bevier, Missouri Brigades, 103.

[21]OR, VIII, 214, 284, 290, 306; Britton, War on the Border, I, 262-267.

[22]Ibid., 272.

[23] OR, VIII, 290-292.

[24]Homer L. Calkins, ed., “Elk Horn to Vicksburg: James H. Fauntelroy’s Diary for the Year 1862,” Civil War History, II, (January, 1956), 14.

[25]John N. Edwards, Shelby and His Men; or, The War in the West (Cincinnati, 1867), 51; Washington, Arkansas, Telegraph, April 2, 1862; Anderson, Memoirs 178.

[26] Sigel, “Pea Ridge Campaign,” 331, 337.

[27] This analysis of the battle agrees essentially with the one presented in ibid., 331-334.

[28]James W. Green, Jr., in his “Address on the Hundredth Anniversary of the Battle of Pea Ridge,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly, XXI (Summer, 1962), 163, criticizes Van Dorn for not making a holding attack on Curtis’ front at Sugar Creek while swinging around to the rear. In this way, he argues, Van Dorn could have tied down enough of Curtis’ troops to have enabled McCulloch and Price to have succeeded with their attacks. This view is sound in principle, but in actual fact the possibility of a Confederate attack on the Sugar Creek line caused Curtis to hold back a large number of his troops during the first day’s battle. Anyway Van Dorn planned to make a surprise attack with overwhelming force on the Union rear and so probably saw no need for General Green’s detachment, left to guard the wagon train, to engage the Federals except to block their retreat southward. Indeed he may have feared that if Green’s weak and poorly armed force attacked, the Federals might counter­attack, defeat it, and capture the wagon train.

[29]OR, VIII, 787.

[30]Ibid., 282.

[31] Lincoln to D. M. Hunter, October 24, 1861, ibid., III, 554.

[32]This view is presented by Sigel, “Pea Ridge Campaign,” 331; Walter Lee Brown, “Pea Ridge, Gettysburg of the West,” Arkansas Historical Quarterly, XV (Spring, 1956), 15-16; Edward Conrad Smith, The Borderland in the Civil War (New York, 1927), 260; and Bruce Catton, Terrible Swift Sword (New York, 1963), 223.

[33] OR, VIII, 282, 790, for Van Dorn’s plan to launch a new offensive, and ibid., 792, for Price’s statement. Catton, in Terrible Swift Sword, 223, writes that after Pea Ridge “It was no longer possible for Van Dorn to contemplate an invasion of Missouri.” Obviously his researchers let him down here.

[34]OR, X, Pt. 2, 354.

[35]The Army of the West was already in the process of moving to Northeast Arkansas in preparation for a campaign in the New Madrid area when Johnston’s order to cross the Mississippi arrived. Indeed Van Dorn planned, if unable to accomplish anything at New Madrid, to “march boldly and rapidly towards St. Louis. . . .” See ibid., VIII, 282, 784, 787, 790-791.

[36]For a bitter denunciation of this policy, see Thomas L. Snead, “The Conquest of Arkansas,” Battles and Leaders, III, 443. Grant’s drive also caused Johnston to strip the defenses of New Orleans, leading to the fall of that key city—a far greater blow to the Confederacy in the Trans-Mississippi than Pea Ridge.

Missouri Jayhawking Raids into Kansas by Albert Castel

©Albert Castel, published with permission

“KANSAS JAYHAWKING RAIDS INTO WESTERN MISSOURI IN 1861”

by Albert Castel

Copyright 1959 Albert Castel. Used with Permission.

This is copyrighted material–the article, the pictures, and the introduction–and may not be copied or reproduced in any form, including on other websites, without permission of the authors.
Books by Albert Castel

available from Amazon.com

Articles of War: Winners, Losers, and Some Who Were Both During the Civil War

Tom Taylor’s Civil War

General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West

Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla

William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times

Decision in the West

More books by Albert Castel

Introduced by G. E. Rule

Albert Castel, over a published career that is approaching fifty years, has proven himself to be the leading historian of the Civil War in the West. With titles like General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West (1968), William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times (1962), and Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla (with Thomas Goodrich, 1998), none of those who are serious about studying the war in Missouri can consider themselves well-read on the subject if they have not read Castel. His other titles on the war in the West will also be read for many years to come, and his Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 (1992) is an award-winning title that is likely to remain the definitive statement on what was arguably the most important campaign of the war. Dr. Castel’s most recent title, Articles of War: Winners, Losers, and Some Who Were Both in the Civil War, Stackpole Books, 2001, is available from Amazon.com.

“Kansas Jayhawking Raids into Western Missouri in 1861” originally appeared in the Missouri Historical Review 54/1 (State Historical Society of Missouri, October 1959). Castel, as both pioneer and leading authority on Kansas and the Civil War, provides an interesting account of the early history of the Kansas-Missouri war-within-a-war. This war would continue to build in intensity and tragedy until culminating in August of 1863 in the Lawrence Massacre and Order No. 11 depopulating three western Missouri counties (see also Castel’s “Order No. 11 and the Civil War on the Border”). It is worth noting that T.J. Stiles recent and critically acclaimed Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War has challenged, at least to a degree, the traditional reading of the relationship between Jayhawking and the motivation of the Pro-Confederate guerrillas of western Missouri. Unlike Castel and the traditional school of thought on this issue, Stiles puts more emphasis on Lawrence as “the abolitionist center” of Kansas rather than as “the Jayhawking center”.  It was both, of course, and it will be interesting to see if future historians continue to accept Castel’s analysis of the guerrillas, or take Stiles’ reading and generalize it beyond Jesse James. Our own opinion is that the average Missourian of the time, although unfairly in many cases, would have seen “Jayhawker” and “abolitionist” as nearly interchangeable terms, with the former being merely a subset of the latter.



Kansans watched Missouri closely during the early months of 1861, anxious as to the course it would pursue in the crisis between North and South. They retained bitter memories of the “Border Ruffian” raids of the ’50’s and feared that if Missouri joined the Confederacy these would be repeated on a greater and more devastating scale. Many Missourians, they knew, harbored an intense hatred of the “horse-stealing abolitionists” of Kansas.[1]

The direction Missouri would take, North or South, long remained uncertain. Torn by conflicting sympathies and interests, most Missourians hoped that their state could be neutral. Finally, however, open warfare broke out in June between the Unionists headed by Brigadier General Nathaniel B. Lyon and the pro-­Southern followers of Governor Claiborne F. Jackson. Lyon drove Jackson from the State capital at Jefferson City, and Jackson countered with a proclamation calling for 50,000 men to resist the Northern “invasion.” The Missouri State Guard, commanded by Major General Sterling Price, gathered in Southwest Missouri for a campaign against Lyon in conjunction with Confederate forces from Arkansas.[2]

Governor Charles Robinson of Kansas regarded Jackson’s proclamation as tantamount to a declaration of war. At his order, hundreds of armed Kansans gathered along the border and prepared to repel invasion.[3] Some Kansans, however, declared that the best policy was to take the offensive against the Missourians in order to “keep them from our doors by giving them something to do at home.”[4] Foremost among this group were the “jayhawkers” of “Captain” James Montgomery and “Captain” Charles Jennison, who for several years had been harassing alleged proslavery settlers in southern Kansas and making occasional raids into Missouri. Their activities had gained them notoriety as “the scourges of the border,” and they had the support of influential Kansas and New England abolitionists. But although they claimed to be inspired by only the highest motives, it was often difficult to determine whether their hatred of slavery equaled their love of plunder. They wel­comed the coming of war in Missouri as opening up new and greater opportunities.

Jennison was the first to act. On June 19, with about 100 men “well-versed in guerrilla war­fare,” he accompanied a regular army expedition to Kansas City and participated in a Union flag-raising ceremony. The fol­lowing day he went on an “independent scouting mission” to Independence, where he forced “several of the leading rebels” to take the oath of allegiance.[5] Shortly afterwards Montgomery made a quick dash across the border, fought a skirmish with “rebel guerrillas,” then marched back loaded with plunder and accompanied by “contrabands”–slaves who “happened to walk off on their own accord.”[6] In July, Jennison struck at Morristown, Missouri, where his men reportedly killed a number of “secesh,” and in August he looted the stores of Harrisonville.[7] Throughout the summer other jayhawker bands led by John Stewart and Marshall Cleveland followed the example of Montgomery and Jennison on a lesser scale.[8]

Late in August a force of 1,200 troops, entitled the “Kansas Brigade,” assembled at Fort Scott under the command of Senator James H. Lane, leader of the extreme antislavery element in Kansas. Its ostensible mission was to defend southern Kansas from Price, who had defeated Lyon at the Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10. However Lane openly proclaimed his intention of marching into Missouri, declaring that as he did so he would not object to seeing “an army of slaves marching out.”[9] Montgomery, who had procured a colonel’s commission, was second in com­mand to Lane, Jennison, Stew­art, and other jayhawkers attached themselves informally to the brigade.

Price, having heard that the Missouri counties east of Fort Scott were “infested” with the “marauding and murdering bands” of Lane, decided to “clear them out.” On September 2 he defeated a portion of Lane’s troops in a skirmish at Drywood Creek near Fort Scott, which Lane evacuated. Content with thus “chastising” the Kansans, he marched on to Lexing­ton, Missouri, where he successfully besieged the Union garrison.[10]

Lane remained in a fortified camp near Fort Scott, fearful for the safety of his army and Kansas, until assured that Price had gone on to the Missouri River. He then sent a detachment under Jennison in “pursuit.” Jennison followed Price at a respectable distance as far as Papinsville, Missouri, then returned with 200 cattle and a number of “contrabands.”[11]

On September 10, “with a smart little army of about 1,500,” Lane started northward along the Missouri line. His avowed objective, however, was not to pursue Price but to “clear out” the valley of the Osage and to “pitch into” the towns of Butler, Harri­sonville, Osceola, and Clinton. On September 12 he reached Trading Post, Kansas, and from there turned eastward into Missouri. As soon as they crossed the border his men began to loot, burn, and perhaps murder and rape.[12]

The climax of Lane’s march occurred at Osceola on Septem­ber 23. After exchanging a few shots with some Confederates on the outskirts, his men entered the town and proceeded to ransack it. They robbed the bank, pillaged stores and private houses, and looted the courthouse. Captain Thomas Moonlight bombarded this last building with a cannon, and others set fire to the town, almost totally destroying it. Many of the Kansans got so drunk that when it came time to leave they were unable to march and had to ride in wagons and carriages.[13] They carried off with them a tremendous load of plunder, including as Lane’s personal share a piano and a quantity of silk dresses.[14] The “Sack of Osceola” henceforth was a prime cause of bitter hatred of Lane and Kansans by the people of West Missouri.

The self-proclaimed purpose of Lane’s expedition was to sup­press secessionist sentiment in western Missouri and to hamper Price’s operations. But his real objective, besides plunder, was to give a practical demonstration of what he had told his Senate colleagues in July, that slavery could not survive the march of the Union armies.[15] By the time his brigade had completed its march scores of Negroes were present in its ranks as teamsters, cooks, and even as soldiers.[16] Probably most of the Negroes came along on their own accord. As early as July, Montgomery wrote that “Contraband Brigades are coming in hourly” and that he did not know what to do with them.[17] Other reports told of large numbers of Negroes, either singly or in groups, fleeing into Kansas.[18] Later, in November, chaplains H. H. Moore and H. D. Fisher of the brigade led a “Black Brigade” of 160 wagons, all filled with Negroes, into Kansas, where they distributed the ex-slaves as laborers among the farms and towns of the southern part of the state.[19]

Lane completed his march at Kansas City on September 29. After remaining three weeks, he joined Major General John C. Fremont’s army in a southward pursuit of Price’s retreating forces. “Our march through Missouri,” later wrote the commander of Lane’s cavalry, “was noted for nothing very remarkable except that our trail was marked by the feathers of ‘secesh’ poultry and the debris of disloyal beegums.” The brigade arrived at Springfield on November 1 but advanced no further. At Lincoln’s order Major General David Hunter replaced Fremont and dispersed the army into defensive positions. Lane and his men headed back to Fort Scott.[20] Thus ended the garish career of the Kansas Brigade.

In the meantime Jennison, through the good offices of Governor Robinson, had acquired a commission as colonel of United States Volunteers. Robinson hoped, fatuously, that if Jennison were given a legitimate outlet for his warlike propensities he would cease his marauding and be of service to the state and the Union.[21] Jennison set about recruiting a regiment which he called the “Independent Mounted Kansas jayhawkers” but which was officially designated the Seventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry.[22] Second in command of the regiment was Lieutenant Colonel Daniel R. Anthony, brother of Susan B. Anthony, a hotheaded abolitionist and publisher of the Leavenworth Daily Conservative, which despite its name was the most radical newspaper in Kansas.

Jennison did not have a complete regiment until November 7. Many of his men were Missourians, and several units came from Illinois. The most notable company, however, was from Ashtabula County, Ohio, and was commanded by John Brown, Jr. The members of this company were all fanatical abolitionists. Another organization of more than passing interest was Company H, which consisted mostly of criminals and ruffians, commanded by the notorious jayhawker and ex-convict, Marshall Cleveland. Many of the other officers were hardly better than Cleveland.[23] Jennison himself was “in reality unfit for any position [of authority] on account of his poor education.” Anthony and the other staff officers were “very careful not to permit him to write or do anything unless done under the supervision of some of his friends who have good judgment [sic].”[24]

After exercising their martial prowess in sacking the saloons of Leavenworth, eight companies of the Seventh Kansas crossed into Missouri at Kansas City on November 11 and 12. Anthony was in command, as Jennison remained behind “to perfect the organization of the regiment. The announced purpose of the expedition was to protect Union supply trains in Jackson County against bush­whackers, put down “rebels,” and “loyalize” the people of that section. [25] Company H rode one-fourth mile ahead of the main column as the advance guard. Its movements were marked by the flames of burning houses and wheatfields and by the flight of women and children into the woods.[26] Near the Little Blue, Anthony encountered a band of armed Missouri irregulars headed by the “notorious” Upton Hayes. After a sharp fight in which he lost nine killed, Anthony drove Hayes’ men from their camp. He next marched to Pleasant Hill, near where his men killed eleven guer­rillas and recaptured most of a wagon train.[27] Then followed a raid on Independence, where “the citizens were given a little touch of the misfortunes of war,” after which the jayhawkers, as the Seventh Kansas was popularly known, marched back to Kansas City, carry­ing much plunder and accompanied by many Negroes.[28] Some of the former slaves, reported Missouri artist George C. Bingham, were armed and serving as soldiers.[29]

Late in November, Brigadier General James W. Denver, com­mander of the District of Kansas, ordered the Seventh Kansas to West Point, Missouri, to protect against a threatened northward thrust by Price. Its march to that town followed the pattern of its earlier operations, as a member of the Ohio company wrote that “Every house along our line of march but one was burned and off on our left flank for miles, columns of smoke from burning houses could be seen.”[30] On reaching West Point, Anthony wrote to his father that his men had taken on the way 150 mules, 40 horses, and 129 Negroes, and that he had given the Negroes 60 horses and mules,  some oxen, and ten wagons and two carriages, “all loaded down with Household Furniters [sic]….” “The Negroes [sic] train into Kansas,” he added, “was one mile long. . . .”[31] In a letter written several weeks later to sister Susan, he declared: “In our march we free every slave … and arm or use them in such manner as will best aid us in putting down rebels. . . . We hope to stir up an insurrection among the negroes. . . .”[32]

Although Price’s invasion failed to materialize, the Jayhawkers remained in the vicinity of West Point well into January. Com­manded by Anthony, sections of the regiment plundered Pleasant Hill, Morristown, and Rose Hill and burned Dayton and Columbus. General Hunter “read with surprise” Anthony’s reports on the destruction of these villages and wrote him that he found no evidence in them “of a state of facts sufficient to warrant these extreme measures.”[33]

Late in January the Seventh Kansas was ordered to Humboldt, Kansas. There, in April, Jennison resigned his commission in a huff over not being promoted to brigadier general. Before resigning he made an “intemperate speech” to the regiment in which he denounced the President and the commanding general and practi­cally urged his men to desert. A number of them, mainly from Company H, took his advice.[34] On learning of Jennison’s speech, General Hunter had him arrested and confined in the military prison at St. Louis. Pressure from influential abolitionists, to whom he was a hero, prevented a court martial and secured his release.[35] He then entered the “live stock” business in Leavenworth–an enterprise which perhaps gave rise to the saying that the horses of Kansas were mostly “out of Missouri, by Jennison.”

Although Jennison’s name was identified with the activities of the Seventh Kansas by both Kansans and Missourians, he had actually exercised little direct command over the regiment. Accord­ing to a letter of Anthony’s, dated March 1, 1862, “Col. Jennison has been Col of his regiment six months and has yet to give the first command to them. I have always commanded them.[36] Therefore, on the basis of his own testimony, as well as other evidence,[37] Anthony deserves most of the “credit” for the operations of the Jayhawkers in Missouri. He himself admitted as much when, in writing to a brother about Jennison’s arrest, he remarked uneasily that if Jennison were brought to trial for “his Missouri policy,” then “we are all in the same boat.”[38]

It is difficult to assess precisely and completely the personal motives which lay behind the conduct of Jennison, Montgomery, Lane, and Anthony in Missouri. With Jennison it was probably a desire primarily for the profits of plunder: in one instance he is reported as selling his loot at a public auction.[39] As for Montgomery, while the plunder motive was present, it seems that he was a sincere, if unscrupulous, antislavery zealot.[40] Lane and Anthony, however, although doubtlessly abolitionists, were impelled mainly by military and political ambition. This was especially true of Lane, who hoped to become President with radical backing and who declared to the New England abolitionist, George L. Stearns, that if given the chance he would march to New Orleans, “stir­ring up slave insurrections on the way.”[41]

Kansans generally approved the forays of the jayhawkers through the border counties of Missouri. Their growing anti­slavery fervor caused them to applaud the slave-liberating aspect of these operations, espe­cially since the freed Negroes relieved the labor shortage in Kansas. True, exaggerated, and false reports of outrages suffered by Kansans and Missouri Union­ists at the hands of Missouri secessionists seemed to warrant retaliation in kind. In addition, the people of Kansas had a distorted concept of the object and nature of the activities of Lane, Jennison, Anthony, and James H. Lane. They believed that their campaigns and raids were designed to put down “treason” and guard against invasion, while the newspaper correspondents who accompanied Lane’s brigade and the Seventh Kansas wrote up the supposedly heroic exploits of these commands and either ignored or glossed over the looting and killing. Finally, there was a rather sizeable element in Kansas which out of economic and moral poverty was quite willing to advocate and practice the plundering of the farmers of western Missouri, who had “a dangerous reputa­tion for wealth.”[42]

The majority of Kansans tended to classify all Missourians, at least those living in the border counties, as rebels. This viewpoint ran counter to the facts and largely reflected prejudice, ignorance, and a desire to rationalize the depredations in Missouri. Probably from one-third to over one-half of the people residing in western Missouri were loyal to the Union or at least neutral in 1861.[43] One of the main results of the raids of Lane and Anthony was to turn many of these Unionists and neutralists into Confederates. By the end of 1861 Major General Henry W. Halleck, then in command of all Union armies west of the Mississippi, expressed the opinion that a few more such raids would make Missouri “as Confederate as Eastern Virginia.”[44]

Another serious consequence of the jayhawking incursions was that they transformed the already existent animosity of the people of western Missouri toward Kansas into an embittered and impas­sioned hatred. This feeling was not confined to pro-Confederate Missourians, but it also affected pro-Unionists. On at least one occasion Missouri State Militia in Federal service warned that they would fire on Kansas soldiers if they did not stay on their side of the line.[45] By the spring of 1862 the situation along the border was so tense that Brigadier General John M. Schofield, commander of the Department of Missouri, feared “open hostility between the Union troops of Kansas and Missouri.”[46]

Scores, perhaps hundreds, of Missourians in the country devas­tated by Lane, Jennison, and Anthony formed guerrilla bands or joined the Confederate army. The force under Upton Hayes which Anthony encountered on the Little Blue had been raised in the locality to defend it against Jennison. Hayes was a freighter engaged in the Santa Fe trade when the war began, operating out of the town of Little Santa Fe near Kansas City. He turned bushwhacker after jayhawkers captured one of his wagon trains, burgled his house, and took his cattle, horses, carriages, and slaves. The famous Cole Younger similarly “took to the brush” when Jennison’s men robbed and killed his father, who had been pro-Union. Far from stamping out such bands as Hayes’, the marches of Lane and Anthony served only to increase their number and intensify their desire for vengeance.[47]

Early in the spring of 1862 a gang of bushwhackers made a shockingly brutal raid on the little village of Aubry in Johnson County, Kansas. The

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Missouri Historical Review for almost 100 years, is an inexpensive and
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raiders not only took horses and other property, but they shot down helpless civilians in cold blood. Their leader had a strange, sinister-sounding name: Quantrill.[48] The seed sowed by Lane at Osceola and by Jennison and Anthony in Jackson County would be harvested by this man at Lawrence.
Notes:


[1]S. J. Reader to “Frank,” June 2, 1861, Kansas Historical Quarterly, IX (February 1940), 33; John Ingalls to “Father,” May 15, 1861, William E. Connelley, editor, “Some Ingalls Letters.” Kansas Historical Collections, XIV (1910-1918), 122; Charles Robinson to Mrs. Charles Robinson, June 17, 1861, Charles and Sara T. D. Robinson Papers, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas; Floyd C. Shoemaker, “Missouri’s Proslavery Fight for Kansas, 1854-18:15,” Missouri Historical Review, XLVIII (April-July 1954), 221-36,325-40, XLIX (October 1954), 41-54.

[2]A good brief account of the secession crisis in Missouri is Edward Conrad Smith, The Border­land in the Civil War (New York, 1927), 240-60.

[3]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, June 18, August 4, 1861; “Military History of Kansas Regiments,” Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Kansas, 1861-1865 (Topeka, 1896), 73.

[4]James Montgomery to George L. Stearns, June 21, 1861, James Montgomery Papers, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

[5]Leavenworth Daily Times, June 9, 18, 23, 1861; Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, June 14, 15, 16, 20, 1861.

[6]Montgomery to Stearns, June 26, July 5, 1861, George L. Stearns Papers, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

[7]Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, July 25, August 12, 1861.

[8]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, July 11, 17, 27, 30, August 20, 1861; Atchison Freedom’s Champion, August 10, 1861; Elwood Free Press, August 10, 1861; Lawrence Kansas State Journal, August 8, 15, 1861; Lawrence Republican, July 17, 1861; White Cloud Kansas Chief, September 5, 1861; Olathe Mirror, June 27, July 25, 1861.

[9]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, August 16, 1861. Lane had been appointed a brigadier general by President Lincoln but had been forced to relinquish the commission or else resign his Senate seat. However, he possessed a brigadier general’s commission from the Governor of Indiana and signed his military correspondence and was addressed by the Federal military authorities as “Brigadier General.”

[10]The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, D. C., 1881-1901), Series I, III, 162, 185; LIII, 435-36. (This publication henceforth shall be cited as O. R.).

[11]Ibid., III, 163-64, 475; A. T. Andrews, History of the State of Kansas (Chicago, 1883), 1,071.

[12]O. R., Ser. I, III, 485, 490; Jacob Stringfellow (Nicholas Verres Smith), “Jim Lane,” Lippin­cott’s Magazine, V (March 1870), 274. Lane’s men are charged with committing murders and molesting women in the following sources: Charles Robinson, The Kansas Conflict (Lawrence, Kansas, 1898), 447; John McCorkle, Three Years with Quantrill (Armstrong, Missouri, 1915), 10-11, 75; William H. Gregg, “The Gregg Manuscript”, (State Historical Society, Columbia, Missouri), 48, 62; John C. Shea, compiler, Reminiscences of Quantrell’s Raid upon the City of Law­rence, Kas. (Kansas City, Missouri, 1879), 5; Council Grove Press, September 14, 1863.

[13]O. R., Ser. I, III, 196; Henry E. Palmer, “The Black-flag Character of the war on the Border,” K. H. C., IX (1905-1906), 456; W. S. Drought, “James Montgomery,” ibid., VI (1897-­1900), 243; John Speer, “The Burning of Osceola, Mo., by Lane, and the Quantrill Massacre Contrasted,” ibid., 306-308; Robinson, Kansas Conflict, 452-54; William E. Connelley, Quantrill and the Border Wars (Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 1910), 199-200.

[14]Lawrence Kansas State Journal, November 28, 1861; White Cloud Kansas Chief, October 6, 1864. One of Quantrill’s men who participated in the Lawrence Raid of August 21, 1863, wrote years later that the raiders found three pianos in the parlor of Lane’s home in Lawrence, two of which were recognized as having belonged to Southern people in Missouri. See McCorkle, Three Years with Quantrill, 87.

[15]Congressional Globe, 37th Cong., 1st Sess., 187.

[16]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, October 8, 9, 1861.

[17]Montgomery to Stearns, July 26, 1861, Stearns Papers.

[18]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, September 20, 1861.

[19]Ibid., November 21, 1861.

[20]O. R., Ser. I, III, 559, 748; James G. Blunt, “General Blunt’s Account of His Civil war Ex­periences,” Kansas Historical Quarterly, I (May 1932), 216-17.

[21]Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, August 9, 1861; Leavenworth Daily Conservative, August 21, 1861; Robinson, Kansas Conflict, 434-35.

[22]William A. Lyman, “Origin of the Name ‘jayhawker’ and How It Came To Be Applied to the People of Kansas,” K. H. C., XIV (1915-1918), 206-07; Simon M. Fox, “The Story of the Seventh Kansas,” ibid., VIII (1903-1904), 27.

[23]Ibid., 19-23, 26. Cleveland resigned his commission on November 1, following a quarrel with Anthony.

[24]Anthony to Aaron Anthony, March 1, 1862, Daniel R. Anthony Papers, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas.

[25]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, November 10, 12, 13, 1861; Anthony to “Father,” Novem­ber 5, 1861, Anthony Papers.

[26]War Diary of Fletcher Pomeroy (typewritten copy of the original MS, State Historical Society, Topeka, Kansas), 15. Pomeroy was a member of John Brown, Jr.’s company. This section of his diary was written in a summary fashion and is not under chronological headings.

[27]Anthony to “Father,” November 24, 1861, Anthony Papers. In this letter Anthony states that one of his men was to be shot for having stolen some property.

[28]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, November 19, 1861

[29]George Caleb Bingham to James S. Rollins and William A. Hall, February 12, 1862, M. H. R. XXXIII (October 1938), 52.

[30]Pomeroy Diary, 18.

[31]Anthony to “Father,” December 22, 1861, Anthony Papers.

[32]Anthony to “Sister,” February 3, 1862, Anthony Papers.

[33]Hunter to Anthony, January 20, 1862, O. R., Ser. I, VIII, 508.

[34]Anthony to “Brother,” April 25, 1862, Anthony Papers.

[35]Jennison to George L. Stearns, April 21, 1862, Stearns Papers; Leavenworth Daily Conservative, April 8, 30, June 3, 1862.

[36]Anthony to Aaron Anthony, March 1, 1862, Anthony Papers.

[37]Pomeroy Diary, 34; Fox, “Seventh Kansas,” K. H. C., VIII, 24, 27-30.

[38]Anthony to “Brother,” April 25, 1862, Anthony Papers.

[39]Leavenworth Daily Conservative, January 12, 1862.

[40]Theodosius Botkin, “Among the Sovereign Squats,” K. H. C., VII (1901-1903), 433; John N. Edwards, Noted Guerrillas, or the Warfare on the Border (St. Louis, 1877), 38.

[41]Frank L. Stearns, The Life and Public Services of George Luther Stearns (New York, 1907), 251-52.

[42]The above discussion of the Kansas attitude toward jayhawking raids in Missouri is based on a complete survey of the Kansas press of the period and of other contemporary records.

[43]Wiley Britton, Memoirs of the Rebellion on the Border—1863 (Chicago, 1882), 114-18; Wil­liam L. Webb, Battles and Biographies of Missourians (Kansas City, Missouri, 1900), 263.

[44]O. R., Ser. I, VIII, 449-50, 507-08, 819; III, 742-43.

[45]Ibid., 433-35, 457-461, 467-68; XXII, Part I, 798-801, 808, 824.

[46]Ibid., 386-87.

[47]Webb, Battles and Biographies, 324; Leavenworth Daily Conservative, November 13, 26, 1861; George Miller, Missouri’s Memorable Decade, 1860-1870 (Columbia, 1898), 76, 89; A. Birdsall, The History of Jackson County, Missouri (Kansas City, 1881), 208-09, 271-73; W. Z. Hickman, History of Jackson County, Mo. (Topeka, 1920), 208-09, 214, 299; Pomeroy Diary, 16; Bingham to James S. Rollins, M. H. R., XXXIII, 46.

[48]O. R., Ser. I, VIII, 335-36.

Order 11 by Albert Castel

©Albert Castel, published with permission

“Order No. 11 and the Civil War on the Border”

by Albert Castel

Copyright 1963 Albert Castel. Used with Permission.

This is copyrighted material–the article, the pictures, and the introduction–and may not be copied or reproduced in any form, including on other websites, without permission of the authors.
Books by Albert Castel

available from Amazon.com

Articles of War: Winners, Losers, and Some Who Were Both During the Civil War

Tom Taylor’s Civil War

General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West

Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla

William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times

Decision in the West

More books by Albert Castel

Introduced by G. E. Rule

Albert Castel, over a published career that is approaching fifty years, has proven himself to be the leading historian of the Civil War in the West. With titles like General Sterling Price and the Civil War in the West (1968), William Clarke Quantrill: His Life and Times (1962), and Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla (with Thomas Goodrich, 1998), none of those who are serious about studying the war in Missouri can consider themselves well-read on the subject if they have not read Castel. His other titles on the war in the West will also be read for many years to come, and his Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 (1992) is an award-winning title that is likely to remain the definitive statement on what was arguably the most important campaign of the war. Dr. Castel’s most recent title, Articles of War: Winners, Losers, and Some Who Were Both in the Civil War, Stackpole Books, 2001, is available from Amazon.com.

“Order No. 11 and the Civil War on the Border” originally appeared in the Missouri Historical Review 57 (State Historical Society of Missouri, July 1963): 357-68 and was reprinted in Winning and Losing in the Civil War (University of South Carolina, 1996), which is an excellent compilation of dry wit and sharp observations on a variety of issues and incidents of the war. As an example of the former, Castel skewers one academic colleague by noting “he achieves a truly remarkable originality when he refers to McClellan’s operations as commander of the Army of the Potomac as ‘lightning maneuvers.’” The current article, below, is an example of the latter.

Castel reports this article has been largely ignored by his fellow historians, while also noting “so far no one has directly challenged these findings, much less rebutted them.” Civilwarstlouis.com is pleased to give “Order No. 11 and the Civil War on the Border” a home on the internet, and to offer a balanced and thoughtful appraisal of one of the most emotional issues of the war in Missouri. Indeed, one can speculate this balance has been a factor in the neglect Castel notes; his article does not offer either side the unqualified brick-bat they would like to belabor the other with. While each side could pick telling phrases to hurl at the other, they would immediately find themselves confronted with an equally powerful excerpt from the same source that they would find distasteful.


Order No. 11 was the most drastic and repressive military measure directed against civilians by the Union Army during the Civil War. 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.

Issued August 25, 1863, by Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr., commander of the District of the Border, with headquarters at Kansas City, Order No. 11 required all the inhabitants of the Western Missouri counties of Jackson, Cass, and Bates not living within one mile of specified military posts to vacate their homes by September 9. Those who by that date established their loyalty to the United States government with the commanding officer of the military station nearest their place of residence would be permitted to remove to any military station in the District of the Border or to any part of Kansas except the counties on the eastern border of that state. Persons failing to establish their loyalty were to move out of the district completely or be subject to military punishment.[1]

Lawrence ruins from Harpers

The general public at the time, as well as most historians since, regarded the order as an act of retaliation for the destruction of Lawrence, Kansas, and the massacre of c. 200 of its male residents by William Clarke Quantrill’s Missouri guerrillas on August 21, 1863. Critics of the order both then and thereafter condemned it as being cruel, unjust, and unnecessary.[2]Its defenders, on the other hand, while admitting its severity, maintained that it was fully warranted by the military situation and that it achieved the results intended—the forcing of Quantrill’s bushwhackers out of the border region of Missouri and the ending of guerrilla raids into Kansas.[3]

Both parties to the controversy over Order No. 11 have usually dwelt upon the circumstances immediately preceding its promulgation and upon the short-range impact of its execution. Rarely, if at all, have they examined its full background or its ultimate operation. Yet it is only through such an examination that a valid evaluation of the order can be made. Once this is done, then perhaps a definite answer can be given to the question, was Order No. 11 a justified act of military necessity or an unjustified deed of military tyranny?

The territorial conflict of the 1850s left a legacy of hatred between Kansas and Missouri. Kansans resented the invasions of the Missouri “Border Ruffians” and the Missourians bitterly recalled the incursions of John Brown, James Montgomery, and other Kansas “jayhawkers.” The outbreak of the Civil War intensified this mutual animosity. 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.

The efforts of the Federal army to put down bushwhacking were frustrated by the skill of the guerrillas, the difficult nature of the countryside, and above all the assistance rendered the bushwhackers by the civilian population. Most of the people of Western Missouri looked upon the guerrillas as their avengers and defenders, and a large portion of them had friends and kinsmen riding with Quantrill. Consequently they aided them in every possible way, from feeding and sheltering them, to smuggling them ammunition and acting as spies. Even anti-Confederates assisted the partisans out of fear of reprisals. Thus in effect the Federal forces in Western Missouri were opposed by an entire people.[4]

By the spring of 1863 Union officers serving along the border had concluded that the bushwhackers could never be suppressed by ordinary tactics. “Good men and true,” wrote one of them, “have been for months trying to catch the bushwhackers, and I know it is, as they declare, almost an impossibility.”[5] And declared another: “If any one … can do better against bushwhackers than we have done, let him try this country, where the people and bushwhackers are allied against the United States and its soldiers.”[6]

In June 1863, Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr., took command of the District of the Border. Ewing, aged thirty-four, was a prominent Kansas Republican, former chief justice of Kansas, and the brother-in-law and one-time law partner of General William T. Sherman. A man who believed that he had “few equals in mental vigor,” he was intensely ambitious and hoped to secure election to the United States Senate. With that goal in mind he was at this period seeking the favor of Senator James H. Lane, the “King” of Kansas politics.

By the end of July Ewing decided that unless his forces were tripled the only possible way to destroy the guerrillas was to strike at the root of their power, the support they received from the civilian population. Therefore on August 3 he wrote his departmental commander, Major General John M. Schofield, stating that since two-thirds of the families in Western Missouri were kin to the bushwhackers and were “actively and heartily engaged in feeding, clothing, and sustaining them,” several hundred families of the “worst guerrillas” should be transported to Arkansas. This would not only deprive the guerrillas of their aid, but would cause the guerrillas whose families had been removed to follow them out of the state. Surrender terms could then be offered to the less offensive bushwhackers remaining.[7]

Schofield approved the plan, and on August 18 Ewing put it into effect by issuing General Order No. 10.[8] Then, three days later, Quantrill and 440 bushwhackers destroyed Lawrence. This deed, which was not only the climax of the Kansas-Missouri Border War but also the most horrible atrocity of the entire Civil War, shocked, frightened, and enraged Unionists in both Kansas and Missouri, and caused them to demand that the bushwhackers be crushed once and for all so as to prevent further raids of this kind. Ewing, who likewise believed that drastic action was needed, responded to their clamor by promulgating Order No. 11 on August 25.

Immediately large numbers of pro-Southern and Conservative Union Missourians denounced the order as “inhuman, unmanly, and barbarous.”[9]Most prominent and vehement among the critics was George Caleb Bingham, the famous artist. Although a Unionist, Bingham hated Kansans in general and Ewing in particular. After Order No. 11 was announced he went to Ewing’s headquarters in Kansas City and demanded that it be rescinded. Ewing refused, and the interview became highly acrimonious. Finally, as he departed, Bingham warned: “If you persist in executing that order, I will make you infamous with pen and brush as far as I am able.”[10]

Photographic reproductions of the George Caleb Bingham painting “Order No. 11” are available from the State Historical Society of Missouri

Bingham carried out his threat in both respects. First he produced a painting entitled “Order No. 11 .” It showed Ewing astride a horse complacently supervising his troops as they expel a Missouri family from its home. A Kansas Red Leg has just shot down a young man, and another is about to shoot the elderly head of the family, oblivious to the pleas of a beautiful young woman kneeling at his feet. The house is being pillaged by Union soldiers, one of whom bears a likeness to the noted jayhawker, Colonel Charles Jennison. In the background columns of smoke rise from burning fields and a long, funereal line of refugees wends its way along the road. The painting was mediocre art but excellent propaganda, and it did more than anything else to create the popular conception of Order No. 11.[11]

What he depicted in the painting Bingham also expressed in various writings which may be regarded as representative of all the criticisms of Order No. 11. According to him the order was “an act of purely arbitrary power, directed against a disarmed and defenseless population” in violation of “every principle of justice.” It was inspired by vengeance and was issued by Ewing in order to curry favor with the Kansas “mob” and advance his political ambitions. It resulted in “barefooted and bareheaded women and children, stripped of every article of clothing except a scant covering for their bodies,” being “exposed to the heat of an August sun and compelled to struggle through the dust on foot.” Under it men “were shot down in the very act of obeying the order, and their wagons and effects seized by their murderers.” Union soldiers and Red Legs burned dwellings and sent long wagon trains of plunder into Kansas. Refugees “crowded by hundreds upon the banks of the Missouri River, and were indebted to the charity of benevolent steamboat conductors for transportation to places of safety where friendly aid could be extended to them without danger to those who ventured to contribute it.”

There was neither need nor cause for Order No. 11, asserted Bingham. Most of the real bandits on the border were not Quantrill’s bushwhackers but Kansas Red Legs who carried on their “nefarious operations under the protection and patronage of General Ewing. . . . The bushwhackers were but small in number, “at all times insignificant in comparison with the Federal troops. . . .” The guerrillas could “at any time have been exterminated or driven from the country had there been an earnest purpose on the part of the Federal forces in that direction, properly braced by a willingness to incur such personal risks as become the profession of a soldier.”

Finally, the order did not accomplish its professed purpose. Instead of driving them out, it gave up the country to the bushwhackers, “who, until the close of the war, continued to stop the stages and rob the mails and passengers, and no one wearing the Federal uniform dared to risk his life within the desolated district.”[12]

Much of Bingham’s pictorial and verbal condemnation of Ewing and Order No. 11 was false and unfair, and motivated by personal malice. It is extremely unlikely, for instance, that Ewing, as the painting “Order No. 11” would imply, ever sat about on his horse callously watching the Red Legs slay defenseless men. The charge that the Red Legs enjoyed Ewing’s “protection and patronage” was viciously absurd, since Ewing, while in command of the District of the Border, made constant and earnest efforts to suppress the Red Legs and stop jayhawking.[13]As for the assertion that bushwhacking did not become widespread until after Order No. 11, this is so obviously contrary to facts as not to require refutation.

Other of Bingham’s accusations, however, had at least some basis in fact. Thus, in issuing the order, Ewing was motivated in part by a desire to satisfy the clamor for revenge in Kansas. In addition there can be little question that he was also concerned about his political prospects. Many Kansans criticized his conduct of affairs along the border and declared that he should be removed from command. Senator Lane warned him that unless he took harsh measures against the guerrillas, he would be a “dead dog” politically.[14]

However, these were not the sole motives, nor even necessarily the main ones, behind the issuance of Order No. 11. Other important considerations were Ewing’s desire to reassure the badly frightened people of Kansas, and to forestall a threatened mob invasion of Western Missouri. Shortly after the Lawrence Massacre, Senator Lane called on the men of Kansas to assemble on the border for the purpose of marching into Missouri and carrying out a campaign of “devastation and extermination.” Had it not been for Order No. 11 this invasion probably would have taken place; as it was, even after issuing the order Ewing had a great deal of difficulty heading off Lane’s proposed expedition.[15] Thus it can be argued that however drastic Order No. 11 was, it helped prevent much worse.

Still another reason for Order No. 11, and probably the main one, was the military situation. The Lawrence Massacre made it obvious that all previous efforts to combat the guerrillas had been unavailing, and that they threatened to drive all Unionists from the border. Therefore the only thing that could be done, for it was the only thing left to be done, was to direct measures against the civilian population which contributed so much to the success of the bushwhackers. Although the timing and circumstances of the order made such an assumption natural and plausible, it was not, except in a limited sense, a retaliation for the massacre. It had been presaged by Order No. 10, and was essentially an extension of a policy already in effect, a policy suddenly made more drastic as a result of a shockingly horrible event.[16]

Finally, even if Ewing had not issued Order No. 11, a similar program would have gone into effect. For on the very same day that Ewing published the order, Schofield sent him the draft of an almost identical order. The major difference between the two was that Schofield’s draft was much harsher than Ewing’s order. Schofield believed that “nothing short of total devastation of the districts which are made the haunts of the guerrillas will be sufficient to put a stop to the evils.” Unlike Order No. 11, Schofield’s proposal established no method of differentiating between Union and Confederate adherents.[17] All in all, Bingham’s criticism of Ewing’s motives in issuing Order No. 11 were for the most part either erroneous, pointless, or both. In any case, Schofield must share the responsibility for the order with Ewing.

Bingham was on much firmer ground in denouncing the severity of the order. There can be no doubt that its execution resulted in a great deal of hardship and suffering. H. B. Bouton, a Unionist living near Kansas City, told of seeing large numbers of “poor people, widows and children, who, with little bundles of clothing, are crossing the river to be subsisted by the charities of the people amongst whom they might find shelter.”[18] Colonel Bazel Lazear, Federal commander at Lexington, Missouri, wrote his wife: “It is heartsickening to see what I have seen. . . . A desolated country and men & women and children, some of them all most [sic] naked. Some on foot and some in old wagons. Oh God.[19]

Marauding by Union troops increased the misery of the refugees. Most of the soldiers enforcing the order were vengeance-minded Kansans who welcomed such a splendid opportunity to punish the Missourians. Ewing, to be sure, repeatedly ordered his men not to engage in wanton pillaging, but his efforts were largely in vain.[20] By the end of September the depopulated district was a silent, forlorn land of stark chimney standing over charred ruins.[21]

But if Bingham had some justification for denouncing the hardships caused by Order No. 11, he was almost totally wrong in contending that it was unnecessary and that the inefficiency and cowardice of the Federal forces were alone responsible for the success of the bushwhackers. Schofield, a competent professional soldier who ultimately became the commanding general of the United States Army, personally investigated the situation in Western Missouri after the issuance of the order and concluded that it was “wise and just—in fact a necessity.”[22] For over two years the guerrillas had been attacking Federal posts and patrols, terrorizing Unionists, and raiding border settlements, and doing so with ever-mounting intensity. As anyone familiar with the nature and history of partisan warfare knows, not only are guerrillas extremely exasperating but also terribly difficult to combat, and that one of the most effective ways (sometimes the only way) to defeat them is to deprive them of their civilian support as Orders No. 10 and 11 contemplated.[23] Such tactics, for example, were employed successfully in South Africa by Lord Kitchener against the Boer commandos, partisans who had many characteristics in common with the Missouri bushwhackers. According to the British military historian, Cyril Falls, Kitchener resorted to “destroying farmhouses and their stores . . . and placing the inhabitants, mostly women, old people, and children, in camps, wherein the death-toll from sickness was high.”[24] And along the same line, it should be noted that Grant in 1864 became so annoyed by Mosby’s raids that he instructed Sheridan to send a cavalry division through Loudon County, Virginia “to destroy and carry off the crops, animals, Negroes, and all men under 50 years of age capable of bearing arms.”[25]

Order No. 11, moreover, was imposed on a predominantly enemy population which was willingly aiding and abetting the bushwhackers. Neither Bingham nor any of the other critics of the order maintained otherwise. The most they claimed was that “hundreds” of the people subjected to the order were “true and loyal” to the Union.[26] But even if this were true the loyalists constituted only a small fraction of those affected by the order. Ewing, it will be recalled, estimated that two-thirds of the families in Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties were voluntarily helping the bushwhackers. This contention is supported by the Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, which declared that most of the inhabitants of these counties were disloyal, and that the few remaining Unionists were terrorized by the guerrillas into aiding them.[27] The Reverend George Miller, who lived in Kansas City during most of the war and opposed Order No. 11, stated in his memoirs that over four-fifths of the people in that region were secessionists.[28] In connection with this last statement, it is interesting to note that a Federal officer engaged in carrying out the order wrote in his diary that only one person in five was being permitted to remain in the district as being loyal to the Union.[29]

As a final answer to this particular criticism of Bingham’s, it should be pointed out that under the laws and practices of war, whenever enemy civilians willingly assist guerrillas, then they must expect to take the consequences, and that among the consequences is forced evacuation of their homes.

The last, and in a way the most important, of Bingham’s strictures on Order No. 11 was that it utterly failed to attain its avowed objective: the destruction of the guerrillas. This charge, to the extent it referred to the immediate effect of the order, was well founded. On this matter we have the testimony of one of the bushwhackers, who later recalled that despite the order,

Quantrill was in no hurry to leave the country for the South. The farmhouses were nearly all vacated as required by Order No. 11, but in every smoke house there hung from the rafters hams and bacon, and the country was full of stray hogs, cattle, and chickens which the owners had been forced to leave behind. There was plenty of feed for horses, and the men gathered the food at night.[30]

When Quantrill left Missouri early in October he did so only because of the approach of cold weather.

Thus the immediate effectiveness of Order No. 11 was practically nil. What, then, was its ultimate result? To this question, unfortunately, there can be no definite answer, for the simple reason that the order was not allowed to function as originally intended. First, Ewing himself relaxed its terms by issuing, on November 20, Order No. 20. This provided for a limited resettlement of the depopulated district by “loyal persons” under a strict system of screening and accountability.[31] Then, in January 1864, as part of a general re-organization of military affairs in the West, the border counties came under the command of Brigadier General Egbert B. Brown, a Missouri militia officer who disapproved of Order No. 11. Acting without prior consultation with Schofield or his approval, Brown on January 14 issued an order permitting all persons not “disloyal or unworthy” to return to their homes in the district.[32] Although nominally similar to Order No. 20, Brown’s order set up a very loose procedure for determining loyalty and disloyalty, and it seemingly ignored the existence of Ewing’s resettlement program, under which, according to the Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, “nine-tenths of all the really loyal who intend to return have done so.”[33] Ewing at once protested the new order to Schofield, declaring that it would undo all that Order No. 11 had accomplished, and that “General Brown will let disloyal refugees return, and following them will return the guerrillas.”[34] But Schofield soon ceased to command in Missouri, and Brown’s policy remained in effect.

As a consequence Ewing’s prediction was fulfilled. By May Colonel James H. Ford, commander of Union forces in Jackson County, was writing that “the county is full of bushwhackers, and they have friends all through the country who furnish them with food . . . . I am satisfied that there are many families that are feeding them that have proved their loyalty. . . .”[35] And in June, following a scout through Jackson County, another Federal officer reported that “wherever we found settlements there we found signs of bushwhackers, and vice versa. Around Hickman Mills, Pleasant Hill, and the Sni Hills there are a good many families returned under the orders of General Brown, all of them bearing protection papers, either from General Brown’s headquarters or headquarters at St. Louis.”[36]

Significantly, not one of the bushwhackers in his memoirs indicates that Order No. 11 in any way handicapped their operations in 1864. On the contrary, one of them related that Quantrill’s band, when it returned to Missouri in the spring, stopped off at a farmhouse and “got a good breakfast of biscuits and bacon . . . prepared by the woman of the house.”[37]

To be sure, it might be argued that Order No. 11 was successful since there were no more guerrilla raids into Kansas from Missouri following its issuance. But it is extremely doubtful that the order as such was more than a minor and indirect factor in achieving this result. Of greater importance were the strengthened border defenses of Kansas following the Lawrence Massacre, an improved home guard system in that state, and above all the fact that the bushwhackers during the summer of 1864 concentrated their operation in Northern and Central Missouri so as to prepare the way for Sterling Price’s invasion that fall.[38] If the guerrillas had wanted to make another foray into Kansas they could have done so at almost any time. Certainly all through 1864 and even in 1865 Kansas communities were in a constant fret over being raided, a good indication that they placed little faith in the effectiveness of the badly watered-down Order No. 11.[39]

Regarded objectively from the standpoint of historical perspective Order No. 11 was a natural and perhaps inevitable response on the part of the Federal military authorities to a situation which had become intolerable. It was, by mid-Victorian if not by modern standards, very cruel. Yet this cruelty, in the final analysis, merely reflected the cruelty of the Kansas-Missouri Border War, without doubt the most savage and bitter phase of the entire Civil War.

Membership in the State Historical Society of Missouri, publisher of the
Missouri Historical Review for almost 100 years, is an inexpensive and
effective way to support the preservation of Missouri’s Civil War heritage.

State Historical Society of Missouri

NOTES


[1]U.S. War Department, The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, 128 vols. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1880-1901), Series I, 22, pt. 2, 473 (hereinafter cited as O.R., followed by series number, volume number, part number [if any], and page). The terms of the order also included a narrow strip of the northern part of Vernon County. In all, the region affected by the order had a population of about 40,000 at the beginning of the war.

[2] For example, see Jay Monaghan, Civil War on the Western Border (Boston: Little, Brown, 1955), 287; Carl W. Breihan, Quantrill and his Civil War Guerrillas (Denver: Sage, 1959), 135-39; Darrell Garwood, Crossroads of America: The Story of Kansas City (New York: Norton, 1948), 320-21; John N. Edwards, Noted Guerrillas; or, The Warfare of the Border (St. Louis: Bryan, Brand, 1877), 205; Charles Robinson, The Kansas Conflict (Lawrence, Kans.: Privately printed, 1898), 447-48.

Editor’s Note: The article as published in MHR in 1963 uses a death toll of 150 from the raid on Lawrence, which was the standard figure used at the time. Castel reports he later came to the conclusion the actual number was probably closer to 180, and that he now accepts the estimate of “around two hundred” as given by Edward E. Leslie in The Devil Knows How to Ride: William Clarke Quantrill and His Confederate Raiders, Random House, 1996, p.237. We have made this correction at the author’s request.

[3] See Lt. Col. R. H. Hunt, General Order No. 11 (Topeka: Kansas Commandery of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, 1908), 3-7; Henry E. Palmer, “The Lawrence Raid,” Kansas Historical Collections, 6 (18971900): 317-25; Shalor W. Eldridge, Recollections of Early Days in Kansas (Topeka: Kansas State Printing Plant, 1920), 197.

[4] The Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, January 23, 1864, estimated that in 1863 nine-tenths of the people in Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties “supplied and aided” the guerrillas.

[5] Ibid., June 13, 1863.

[6] Ibid., May 2, 1863.

[7] O.R., I, 22, pt. 2, 428-29.

[8] Ibid., 450-51, 460-61.

[9] Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, September 5, October 3, October 10, 1863, quoting the Lexington Union and the St. Louis Republican.

[10] C. B. Rollins, ed., “Letters of George Caleb Bingham to James S. Rollins,” Missouri Historical Review, 33 (October 1938): 62.

[11] Bingham completed the painting in November 1868. The original hangs in the art gallery of the State Historical Society of Missouri, Columbia.

[12] The above statements and quotations are from a public letter written by Bingham in 1877, most conveniently found in William L. Webb, Battles and Biographies of Missourians (Kansas City: Hudson-Kimberly, 1900), 256-64.

[13] Albert Castel, Frontier State at War. Kansas, 1861-1865 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1958), 111-12.

[14] William E. Connelly, Quantrill and the Border Wars (Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Torch Press, 1910), 417-18.

[15] Castel, Frontier State at War, 146-49.

[16] Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, September 5, 1863; Schofield to Ewing, January 25, 1877, in Webb, Battles and Biographies, 265.

[17] O.R., I, 22, pt. 2, 471-72. John N. Edwards, Noted Guerrillas, 205-6, who got most of the material for his book from former guerrillas, even stated, mistakenly, that the order actually originated with Schofield, who in turn got his instructions from Washington.

[18] Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, September 19, 1863.

[19] Vivian K. McLarty, ed., “The Civil War Letters of Colonel Bazel Lazear,” Missouri Historical Review, 44 (July 1950): 390.

[20] O.R., I, 22, pt. 2, 570-71, 591; ibid., 34, pt. 2, 326, 375; Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, September 19, November 23, 1863, January 30, 1864. John N. Edwards, who rarely missed an opportunity to berate the Kansans, declared that Ewing executed Order No. 11 “mercifully.” Edwards, Noted Guerrillas, 206.

[21] About one-half of the refugees crossed into North Missouri, while most of the other half went South. O.R., I, 22, pt. 2, 753. Only about 600 of the 10,000 some inhabitants of Cass County remained there by September 9. Richard S. Brownlee, Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1958), 126.

[22] John M. Schofield, Forty-six Years in the Army (New York: Century, 1897), 83.

[23] Theodore Ropp, War in the Modern World (Durham: Duke University Press, 1959), 77; Cyril Falls, A Hundred Years of War (London: Duckworth, 1953), 278, 282, 288-89.

[24] Ibid., 148, 279.

[25] Virgil Carrington Jones, Gray Ghosts and Rebel Raiders (New York: Macmillan, 1956), 279.

[26] O.R., I, 22, pt. 2, 484; ibid., 34, pt. 2, 242-43; Webb, Battles and Biographies, 261.

[27] Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, September 5, 1863.

[28] George Miller, Missouri’s Memorable Decade, 1860-1870 (Columbia, Mo.: Press of E. W. Stephens, 1898), 36.

[29] Diary of Sherman Bodwell, MS, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka, August 29, 1863.

[30] MS Memoirs of Frank Smith, copy of original in possession of author.

[31] O.R., I, 22, pt. 2, 693-94, 702-3, 713-14; Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, November 21, 1863.

[32] O.R., I, 34, pt. 2, 79-80.

[33] Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, January 23, 30, 1864. About 250 families were allowed to resettle under Order No. 20, according to Ewing’s chief quartermaster. William Birdsall, comp., The History of Jackson County, Missouri (Kansas City: Union Historical Co., 1881), 290-91.

[34] O.R., I, 34, pt. 2, 81, 89.

[35] Ibid., pt. 3, 623.

[36] Ibid., pt. 1, 1022.

[37] MS Memoirs of Frank Smith.

[38] Brownlee, Gray Ghosts of the Confederacy, 206-9.

[39] Kansas City Western Journal of Commerce, June 18, July 2, 1864; O.R., I, 34, pt. 3, 401, 502; ibid., pt. 4, 25, 54-55; Charles Robinson to Mrs. Charles Robinson, February 5, 1865, Charles Robinson Papers, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.

Solving the Mystery of the Arsenal Guns

Solving the Mystery of the Arsenal Guns

by

Randy R. McGuire, PhD

Part I:

Introduction

Sources and Methodology

Background of the Arsenal

The St. Louis Arsenal in the Years Leading up to the Civil War

Randy R. McGuire, PhD is an archivist at Saint Louis University, and author of the recent St. Louis Arsenal: Armory of the West.

St. Louis Arsenal: Armory of the West

by Randy R. McGuire, PhD

available from Amazon.com

Part I:

Introduction

Sources and Methodology

Background of the Arsenal

The St. Louis Arsenal in the Years Leading up to the Civil War

Part II:

Events of Early 1861 Affect the St. Louis Arsenal

Conclusion

Go to Part II

Bibliography

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D

©2003 Randy R. McGuire, PhD.

No reproduction or distribution without the consent of the author

Geo Rule, webmaster of civilwarstlouis.com, has posed an interesting and historically significant question in his recent website article, “The 140 Year Debate Over the Number of Guns at the Arsenal.”  Having been impressed by Rule’s thorough research and his comparison of the various statements of Civil War historians in regard to this question, I have decided to enter the fray with a more definitive statement than that which I gave in my recent book, St. Louis Arsenal: Armory of the West.

I believe that Geo Rule clearly establishes the importance of this question in the same way that Basil Duke argued that control of the St. Louis Arsenal was essential to controlling the City of St. Louis, which was the key to deciding Missouri’s future in the Union (see App C.11).  Some sources indicate that the arsenal held approximately “30,000 stand of arms” (Anderson [1908] App C.8; Catton [1961] App D.4.a; Vogelgesang [1963] App D.6.a; Nevin [1983] App D.7), that is to say, the weapons and accoutrements necessary to equip 30,000 infantry soldiers. Other sources suggest 40,000 arms (Shoemaker [1943] App D.3.a; Iverson [1963] App D.5.b), or the more commonly cited 60,000 arms (Peckham [1866] App C.5.a; Snead [1886] App C.7; McElroy [1909] App C.9; Rombauer [1909] App C.10.b; Duke [1911] App C.11; Stevens [1921] App D.1.c; Reasoner [1936] App D.2; Phillips [1990] App D.8.a; Primm [1998] App D.10), while one source mentions as many as 75,000 arms (Blair [1861] App C.5.l). Which account can the present-day reader believe? Clearly, it was, and perhaps is, important to know how many serviceable arms were in the arsenal because of the risks involved in keeping or capturing the installation and using the arms to outfit the newly forming regiments, whether Union or Confederate.  Each infantry regiment comprised approximately one thousand soldiers.  Therefore, the St. Louis Arsenal, in the opening days of the war, had enough small arms on hand to equip at least thirty regiments, and possibly as many as sixty.  If we are to believe a common calculation that the entire Confederacy had only about 150,000 stand of arms in the spring of 1861 (Stevens, App D.1.c), then we can readily see how important the addition of 30,000 to 60,000 arms would have been to the South’s efforts to prevail against the much better-equipped Union forces.

While conducting research for my history of the St. Louis Arsenal, I initially concluded that it held between 30,000 and 40,000 small arms.  This was based on my acceptance of the events described in the James Stokes affair, (Duyckinck [1861] App C.3; Moore [1862] App C.4.a) in which he was credited with “rescuing” about 21,000 small arms from the arsenal and transporting them to Illinois where they would be issued to newly formed volunteer regiments.  According to this account, the arsenal retained only enough weapons to outfit the ten regiments which Captain Lyon was authorized to enlist.  That would leave approximately 10,000 weapons at the arsenal or in the hands of Lyon’s recruits after the others were ferreted away to Illinois on April 26, 1861.  But what remains perplexing is why the Confederate sympathizers in Missouri remained resolute in their plan to take over the arsenal in spite of the fact that the majority of its guns had been shipped to Illinois.  Perhaps they dismissed, as Union propaganda, the report of this event in the Daily Democrat of April 27, for they persisted in believing that a substantial number of arms remained for the taking at the arsenal.

Sources and Methodology

In order to address the narrow question of how many arms were in the arsenal in early 1861, it is helpful to understand the wider spectrum of issues occurring at that time.  To set this question in a broader context, we will consider the political, military and logistical concerns which placed the St. Louis Arsenal at the center of events in the bitter struggle for control of the West.  We will proceed with the discussion in chronological order, considering the sources cited in Geo Rule’s article and consulting a number of others which bear upon the question.

Perhaps it will be helpful, in answering the basic question posed here, to trace the number of guns in the Arsenal by starting from a known, early point.  The arsenal was a vital, operating installation, evolving to meet the changing needs of the times.  As such, it took in small arms and other ordnance on a regular basis, primarily from arsenals of construction, such as Springfield, MA, and Harper’s Ferry, VA, holding and maintaining the armaments until issued to militia forces and regular units upon the receipt of authorized requisitions.  Arsenal commanders sent quarterly operations reports to the Chief of Ordnance, and the contents of the arsenals were inventoried, in great detail, on an annual basis.

There are many surviving quarterly reports and annual inventories in the National Archives in Washington, DC, and these would no doubt answer our question in minute detail.  But short of having these records at our fingertips, we can extract some very useful statistics from published government documents containing the annual reports of the Chief of Ordnance to the Secretary of War.  Many reports and records of the Civil War period are also available in the voluminous “Official Records of the Rebellion” (OR).[1] There are also references to the arsenal published in local newspapers of this period.  The reports are not always accurate, because they were written by reporters who had imperfect access to official sources.  Still, these articles can be helpful in corroborating information or helping to narrow down the possible options.  Finally, there are the published reminiscences of people who were present at the time of these events and who may have been privy to inside information.  These reminiscences often contain contemporary letters that might provide an insightful window on the world of Civil War St. Louis.  All of the above sources have been consulted in the research for this article, and the findings will be presented here in the order of their composition.

Background of the Arsenal

Map of southeast St. Louis showing the location of the Arsenal in regard to the city, the Mississippi and Arsenal Island, where many soldiers who had died at the Arsenal were buried. The Arsenal’s location on the river made it directly accessible to riverboat traffic.

The St. Louis Arsenal was established in 1827 when the U.S. Government decided to replace Fort Belle Fontaine, which had been located since 1805 some 15 miles north of St. Louis on the Missouri River.  Belle Fontaine had served as an arsenal and quartermaster post, supplying Government outposts in the watershed of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers.  It also served as a cantonment for a regiment of U. S. troops guarding the Western and Northwestern frontier.  The main body of troops was moved from Belle Fontaine in 1826 and established a few miles south of St. Louis at what became Jefferson Barracks.  The following year, Lieutenant Martin Thomas was instructed to purchase land convenient to the Mississippi for the establishment of a major arsenal to serve the needs of the growing Western military forces, as well as outfitting the militias of nine states and territories.  Lieutenant Thomas purchased a beautiful 37 acre tract on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi.  The Carondelet Road, which eventually became Broadway Street, marked the western border of the property, giving easy access to St. Louis, Carondelet and Jefferson Barracks, in addition to the access provided by the river.  A house of one-and-a-half stories stood on the property when it was purchased, which soon became an officers’ quarters.

View of the main arsenal building from the west. This is possibly the oldest extant image of the arsenal (c1862). Piled in the foreground are pigs of lead captured from secessionists shortly after the beginning of hostilities. (Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society)

Within twelve years, this property blossomed into a beautifully designed installation of 22 buildings within a handsome stone enclosing wall.  During peacetime, the population of the arsenal rarely amounted to more than about thirty Army ordnance soldiers and about as many civilian workers.  The installation was commanded by a captain in the early days and by a major just shortly before the Civil War.  There were usually two or three junior officers to serve as assistant ordnance officers or quartermasters.  The bulk of the work was done by civilians (many of whom were highly skilled German artisans) and a few enlisted personnel.  The work consisted of assembling, storing and issuing small arms, artillery, gun carriages, ammunition, gunpowder and a host of accoutrements.  The St. Louis Arsenal was not an “arsenal of manufacture.”  In other words, it did not manufacture small arms or artillery.  Rather, it assembled them from parts made at the major U. S. armories, Springfield, MA and Harper’s Ferry, VA, and contracted for cannonballs and artillery tubes from civilian foundries.  But the workforce manufactured nearly all types of ammunition and built gun carriages, traveling forges and caissons from scratch.  The arsenal also ran a bustling business in pyrotechnics and was said to create some of the finest fireworks displays in the country.

Arsenal fireworks displays were popular with the community in the peaceful years prior to the Civil War.

The St. Louis Arsenal in the Years Leading up to the Civil War

In order to understand the traditional functions of the St. Louis Arsenal and to better evaluate its status in the opening days of the Civil War, it is helpful to become acquainted with the significant period leading up to the war. Our overview begins with the period of the Mexican War, 1846 to 1848.  When the war broke out in early 1846, the civilian workforce at the St. Louis Arsenal grew at an unprecedented rate, from a couple dozen laborers to a high of 517 workers.  During the two years of war, the arsenal produced 19,500 artillery rounds, 8.4 million small arms cartridges, 13.7 million musket balls, 4.7 million rifle balls, 17 field cannon with full attachments, 15,700 stand of small arms, 4,600 edged weapons, and much more.  It is of some interest to notice that only 17 artillery pieces were issued, even though thousands of cannonballs were produced by the arsenal.  The primary reason for this is that the St. Louis Arsenal was established to outfit forces on the western frontier.  In the West, the Army units were infantry or cavalry and they had little use for artillery, except for those permanent units which had one or two cannons or howitzers to ward off Indian attacks and to perform formal gun salutes.  So the St. Louis Arsenal maintained only a small number of these guns.  When war came with Mexico, however, the U. S. faced a threat from a relatively modern and well-equipped opponent which had its own cities to defend and a strong force of artillery to be defeated.  In this case, the U. S. Army required substantial amounts of artillery and most of it came from the major eastern arsenals.  Still, St. Louis remained in a good position to provide ammunition for U. S. artillery forces, so a large proportion of shot and shell was produced in this western outpost.

The St. Louis Arsenal served an important role during the Mexican War of the mid-1840s as it supplied the American Army with thousands of small arms and artillery rounds, and millions of rounds of ammunition.

It is, perhaps, significant to note that a large part of the Missouri Volunteer Militia who served in the Mexican War were equipped at the St. Louis Arsenal.  Many key commanders of Missouri troops who would later gain notoriety in the Civil War, such as Sterling Price, Daniel Frost and John Bowen, were intimately familiar with the St. Louis Arsenal, its manufacturing capabilities and the types of weapons and equipment housed there.  These leaders and their Missouri volunteers served both in Mexico and in the border strife with Kansas from the late 1840s to 1861.  It was, therefore, quite natural that these veterans should turn to the St. Louis Arsenal to gain the means to advance their interests in the opening days of sectional strife.  In fact, the arsenal commander, Major William Bell, who had served intermittently in this post since before the Mexican War, was highly sympathetic with the Southern Cause and would play a significant role in the events of the spring of 1861.

The Missouri Volunteer Militia was activated in the late 1850s to protect the western border of the state from pro-slavery violence in Kansas. This image depicts the militia at Camp Lewis, near St. Louis, in 1860. (Courtesy of the Missouri Historical Society)

After the Mexican War a flood of materiel returned to the St. Louis Arsenal where it was reconditioned and put back in storage or sold off as military surplus.  In the mid-1850s the U. S. Army began equipping its regular troops with Springfield muskets, which featured rifling for the new .58 caliber “Minié ball” and had a highly accurate rear sight with an improved percussion system.  The Army also acquired a significant number of British Enfield muskets, rifled at .577 caliber, originally intended for issue to militia troops.  Some held the Enfield to be an inferior weapon to the Springfield, but tens of thousands of Enfields would see service with both Union and Confederate units.  Other rifles and carbines, developed from the 1840s to the 60s, would also be used in large numbers in the Civil War; Hall’s, Remington and Spencer were popular, and deadly, names in longarms, equipping both sides of the conflict.  Especially popular with cavalry and infantry were Sharp’s Carbines and Army rifles, which used a metallic cartridge and could fire with extreme accuracy and high volume.  Berdan’s “Sharps Shooters” would gain fame in the Civil War for their prowess with these weapons.  The St. Louis Arsenal held these and other patent small arms in its inventory, but the Springfield and Enfield would remain the workhorses of the common infantryman.

Two of the more common .58 caliber muskets issued to troops by the St. Louis Arsenal. The weapon on the left is the 1855 U.S. Model rifle musket and the right-side one is the 1853 British Enfield rifle musket, both of which were in rather short supply in the opening days of the war, but were eventually issued in large numbers to the armies of North and South. (Courtesy of NIMA)

In 1857 and 58 there was a flurry of activity at the arsenal after President Buchanan ordered an expedition of U. S. troops to march on Utah to suppress a threatened Mormon uprising.  This “Utah Expedition,” led by General William S. Harney and later, Colonel Albert Sydney Johnston, was primarily outfitted from the St. Louis Arsenal and organized at Fort Leavenworth, KS.  At this time, the arsenal contingent consisted of thirty enlisted men and a similar number of civilians, but the heavy demand for armaments soon increased the civilian workforce to a hundred men.  The arsenal armed sixteen hundred federal troops for the expedition, in addition to providing its usual services for the militias of nine states and territories.  In all, during this period of crisis, the arsenal shipped 608 chests of small arms (usually packed with 20 rifles or muskets to a case) and 7,135 boxes of ordnance stores. Brevet Captain Jesse L. Reno was assigned as the expedition’s ordnance officer.  Reno’s “Battery” or “Siege Train,” as it was sometimes called, consisted of fifteen guns, fourteen caissons, four battery wagons and fourteen traveling forges.   The expedition evidently expected to encounter heavy resistance from the Mormons.  As it turned out, the Mormons were intimidated by the large show of force and accepted the offer of President Buchanan to submit to the U. S. Constitution and receive “a full pardon for their past seditions and treasons” (Moore 217).  A portion of the army established a camp forty miles southwest of Salt Lake City while the remainder was ordered to the Oregon frontier to suppress Indian hostilities.  Many of these troops remained in Utah and Oregon until the outbreak of the Civil War, when they were recalled to the East, or departed for service with the Confederacy.  It is unclear what happened to the large amount of arms and munitions sent on the expedition, but there is no known record of their being returned to the arsenal (Moore 217; Iverson 297-98; Missouri Republican, July 3 and 4, 1857 and February 4, 1858).

U.S. Model 1842 Musket. This .69 caliber musket was produced in large numbers between the Mexican War and the Civil War and was the primary long arm issued by the St. Louis Arsenal before the .58 caliber Springfield rifle replaced it on the eve of the Civil War. Many of these were rifled and saw service in the war. (Courtesy of NIMA)

In 1857, U. S. Government inspectors condemned 190,000 outdated muskets as being “unsuitable for the public service” and recommended that they be sold.  At that time there were nearly 500,000 of these arms in the U. S. inventory  (Moore 206-07).  The Chief of Ordnance announced that on June 15, 1859, 50,000 unused United States muskets, both flintlock and percussion, would be sold by the department at a nationwide auction.  All sealed bids were to be submitted to the Ordnance Department and would be opened on June 15, at which time the muskets would be sold to the highest bidders.  The arms were all in serviceable condition but were being sold because they did not conform to the new army regulations.  These were mostly the old .69 caliber muskets which had been superceded by the new .58 caliber Model 1855 rifle muskets.  Each of the ten primary arsenals in the U. S. contributed to the number of weapons to be auctioned off.  The St. Louis Arsenal contributed 330 flintlocks and 6,160 percussion muskets, for a total of 6,490 firearms (Iverson 296-97; Missouri Republican, April 12, 1859) .  Unfortunately, the auction sale was a bust.  Colonel Craig, the Chief of Ordnance, said, “The bids received were very unsatisfactory, ranging from 10 ½ cents to $2.00, except one bid for a small lot for $3.50.  In submitting them to the Secretary [of War] I recommended that none of them be accepted at less than $2.00” (Moore 207).  So the Ordnance Department made an effort to sell the guns in private sale for $2.50 apiece.  Still, only 31,610 of them were sold in parcels and it is unclear how many were disposed of by the St. Louis Arsenal.

Late in 1859, in answer to a request from Secretary of War John B. Floyd, the Chief of Ordnance provided a detailed list of “the number of serviceable muskets and rifles on hand at each armory and arsenal in the United States” (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 1—see App A.1).  It is of great interest, in regard to the present question, to know how the St. Louis Arsenal fared in this respect, less than a year and a half prior to the onset of hostilities.  The Chief of Ordnance reported to the Secretary of War that the St. Louis Arsenal held 33,015 muskets and 719 rifles.   This is close to 34,000 stand of arms.  The report actually breaks down the specific types of weapons included in the count, which is very instructive:

Altered to percussion, cal .69 25,990
Altered to Maynard lock, cal .69 1,502
Made as percussion, cal .69 325
Percussion since rifled, cal .69 4,488
Rifled Musket, cal .58 710

Total Muskets 33,015
Made as percussion, cal .54 236
New model rifle, cal .58 483

Total Rifles 719

Total Small Arms on Hand 33,734

Some significant conclusions can be drawn from this report which was issued just thirteen months prior to Secession (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 1—see App A.1).  The report shows that United States armories and arsenals held 610,262 small arms in twenty-one locations across the country.  Of those arms, 56,933 were located on the west coast or were in transit there.  In northern states that could pose an immediate threat to the South, there were 504,525 small arms. The future seceding states held, at that time, only 48,804 muskets and rifles, [2] about eight percent of the total owned by the U. S. Government, and slightly less than ten percent of what the threatening northern states held.  But all of this was about to change through the influential actions of one man, Secretary of War John B. Floyd, who served in the Buchanan administration from 1857 through 1860.

This image illustrates how rifles and muskets were packed 20 to a case for shipment or storage. This made the transport and preservation of small arms more convenient.

It might be of some significance that Secretary Floyd hailed from Virginia.  He was, in fact, a former governor of the state.  His actions as Secretary of War appear, in retrospect, to have been considerably favorable toward the South.  After having received the results of the above inventory of arms at U. S. arsenals, Floyd ordered, on 30 December 1859, that 105,000 muskets and 10,000 rifles be transferred from three northern repositories to five southern arsenals.  This transaction was carried out in the spring of 1860 and received little notice from federal authorities.  At this time, of course, all of the southern arsenals were in federal hands.  Within a year, however, those arsenals, with all of their arms, would be controlled by secessionist governments (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 39—see App A.9).

This reduction of 115,000 small arms from northern inventories and their addition to southern arsenals considerably changed the potential balance of firepower. If we compare the number of southern arms to those held only by the northern states that posed an immediate threat to the South, then we will see that the proportions had changed significantly. The South now held 163,804 arms as opposed to the 389,525 in threatening northern inventories. This meant that the South would potentially control, at the outset of a regional conflict, nearly thirty percent of the small arms available in that theater of war, and this was the situation just nine months prior to secession. Moreover, with the strong possibility that Missouri would secede from the Union, secessionists looked longingly at the St. Louis Arsenal. Had they been able to add its 1859 figure of 33,734 small arms to the Confederate inventory, it would make the proportion 197,538 southern guns to 355,791 guns available to the North, giving the South control of more than thirty-five percent of the small arms in the theater of war. In fact, had the Confederacy come to control the St. Louis Arsenal, they likely would have held a majority of the small arms available to the western theater of operations, and who knows what chain of events that might have resulted from that set of circumstances? [3]

In spite of early protestations that he was “an avowed opponent of secession,” Secretary Floyd resigned early from his post in the Buchanan Administration, effective December 29, 1860, to return to Virginia, where he was commissioned a brigadier general in the Confederate Army five months later. After Floyd’s resignation, a Congressional investigation looked into his activities in regard to the transfer of arms to the South while he held office. Although the investigation formally exonerated him and President Buchanan stoutly defended his friend of any wrong-doing, there were many who continued to believe that the South would not have been as well-armed as it was at the outbreak of hostilities had it not been for the provisions made by their man in the Administration looking after their interests (Moore 206-07).

In the months leading up to secession there was a flurry of activity as the southern states attempted to get their share (and more) of arms and accoutrements before leaving the Union.  Several states asked for their annual allotment of arms, designated for the state militias, a year or two in advance of what was due them.  It is hard not to conclude, when reading the correspondence of the War Department and the Ordnance Department in the Official Records of the Rebellion, that the southern states, from an early date, were fully aware of their intention to secede and desired to absent the Union as well-equipped as possible (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, pp 3-15).

Two popular small arms found in fair numbers during the early months of the war were Sharps carbines and full length rifles, which used the convenient metal cartridge that permitted a higher volume of fire than was capable with the traditional muzzle-loader.

In addition to the 115,000 arms transferred to southern inventories by Secretary Floyd during 1860, several thousand other small arms were added by distribution in the annual allotment system and by purchase of surplus arms.  The total number of weapons distributed to southern states from all sources, including the St. Louis Arsenal, was as follows:  6-pounder bronze cannon—6;  12-pounder bronze howitzer—2;  .58 cal rifle muskets—1617;  .58 cal long range rifle muskets—686;  .58 cal cadet muskets—716;  .69 cal percussion muskets—450;  Sharps carbine—1;  Colt belt pistols—49;  percussion pistols—61;  various swords and sabers—325.  There were also at least 18,550 flintlock muskets (.69 cal) altered to percussion which were sold to southern states.  So, during 1860, the eleven states which would eventually secede from the Union had received, by annual distribution or by sale, (in addition to the transfer of the 115,000 arms) a total of: 8 cannon; 12,020 muskets and rifles; 110 pistols; and 325 swords and sabers.  (Another 5,560 flintlock  muskets (.69 cal) were sold to individual entrepreneurs who may or may not have been serving southern interests.  It is unclear how many of these guns made it into southern inventories.)  During this period, the St. Louis Arsenal gained 252 rifled muskets (.58 cal.), 8 Colt belt pistols and 8 non-commissioned officers’ swords as Missouri’s portion of the annual allotment.  But the record also shows that the arsenal sold 4,130 flintlock muskets, altered to percussion, to private parties, some of which might have had southern connections  (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, pp 27-29.  Note, for instance, attempts of George B. Lamar, an agent for a southern state, attempting to buy large numbers of weapons for his client:  see App B.2-4.)

On January 8, 1861, barely a week after Secretary Floyd resigned his office and was replaced by Joseph Holt (see App A.3), the Chief of Ordnance sent the new Acting Secretary of War an eye-opening report revealing the serious lack of weapons in federal arsenals:

In my last annual report, dated 30th of October, 1860, I had the honor, among other matters, to state as follows:

“The number of arms manufactured at the national armories during the last year was not as great as the available funds would have justified.  This diminution is in a measure attributable to the diversion of armory operations from the manufacture of arms of the established model to the alteration of arms according to plans of patentees and to getting up models of arms for inventors.  Our store of muskets of all kinds at this time does not exceed 530,000, dispersed among the arsenals of the country—nowhere more than 130,000 arms being together.  As this supply of arms is applicable to the equipment of the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the militia of the country, it is certainly too small, and every effort should be made to increase the number of our new-model [.58 caliber] guns, whilst no further reduction by sale of the old-model [.69 caliber] serviceable arms should be allowed until our arsenals are better supplied.  Our store of muskets in former years reached nearly 700,000, and was not then considered too great for the country, as was evidenced by the liberal appropriations made for the further increase and for the construction of more perfect and productive machinery for the fabrication of small arms.”

Since that date, 127,655 serviceable muskets altered to percussion have been ordered to be sold, many of which have already been disposed of and passed out of the possession of Government.  I have now respectfully to recommend that no more arms on the orders already given be disposed of, and that no further sales be made except in the manner authorized by the Act of March 3, 1825.  (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 33—see App  A.6)

Secretary Holt followed the advice of the Chief of Ordnance and ordered an immediate halt to the sale of Government small arms.

The Committee on Military Affairs of the U. S. House of Representatives took a great deal of interest in the status of small arms in U. S. arsenals, especially after South Carolina seceded and captured the Charleston Arsenal with all of its ordnance while several other southern states were threatening secession.  The committee sought information on the transfer of arms to southern arsenals under Secretary Floyd, and then on January 18, 1861, the chairman of the committee, Benjamin Stanton, requested of Secretary Holt detailed information on the “number of improved arms, now recognized as suitable for the service, [that] are now in possession of the [U. S. War] Department, and how large a force the Department can now arm with the latest improved arms” (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 42—see App A.11-12).

On January 21, 1861, the Chief of Ordnance, Colonel Craig, produced for Mr. Stanton a detailed enumeration of the small arms transactions under former Secretary Floyd and the effect it had on the supply of guns remaining in Union inventories:

In answer to the letter of the Hon. B. Stanton of the 18th instant I have to state that it appears by the last returns that there were remaining in the U.  S. arsenals and armories as follows: Percussion muskets and muskets altered to percussion (caliber .69), 499,554, and percussion rifles (caliber .54), 42,011; total, 541,565. If from this number are deducted the numbers of the same description that were in the arsenals in South Carolina, Alabama, and Louisiana, which arsenals have been officially reported to have been taken possession of by the authorities of those States, 60,878, it leaves this number, 480,687; the whole of which are “recognized as suitable for the service.” In addition to these there are, rifle muskets, model of 1855 (caliber .58), 22,827; rifles, model of 1855 (caliber .58), 12,508; total, 35,335; which are “the latest improved arms.”

In a footnote, the ever-fastidious Craig added a comment concerning the number of weapons which, it was implied, would soon fall into Confederate hands with the imminent secession of two more states:  “NOTE.—Of the above 480,687 muskets and rifles, 22,000 of them are in the arsenal at Augusta, Ga., and 36,362 in the arsenal at Fayetteville, N. C.” (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, pp 42-43—see App A.13).

Since Colonel Craig’s discussion of the numbers is rather convoluted, a simplified form of the chart accompanying his letter is reproduced below:

States and

Territories

With Arms

All Types

of

Muskets

All Types

of

Rifles

Total

Small

Arms


Union and Border States
Massachusetts 155,566 12,177 167,743
Dist. of Columbia 73,778 2,285 76,063
New York 42,005 28,406 70,411
California 47,501 7,218 54,719
Missouri 32,468 5,673 38,141
Pennsylvania 27,443 5,493 32,936
Maine 24,313 24,313
New Mexico 2,333 2,248 4,581
Washington Territory 4,082 470 4,552
Kansas 1,385 2,193 3,578
Maryland 50 50



410,924 66,163 477,087
Seceding States
North Carolina 32,678 3,636 [36,314]
Georgia 20,001 2,000 22,001
South Carolina 17,413 2,817 20,230
Alabama 17,359 2,000 19,359
Louisiana 12,364 6,141 18,505
Virginia 10,646 6,868 17,514
Texas 3,253 2,204 5,457
Arkansas 1,310 54 1,364



115,024 25,720 140,744

Unfortunately, the figures in Colonel Craig’s chart do not square with his calculations in the letter.  One sum in the original chart was found to be incorrect and it has been corrected for the simplified table above.[4] In the original chart, Colonel Craig included all of the states having arsenals, in both North and South.  He then listed the total number of small arms (muskets and rifles) and artillery pieces (sea coast, siege and garrison, and field artillery) held in their inventories.  There is no reason to believe the inventory numbers are inaccurate, even though Craig’s handling of the figures leaves something to be desired.

As for artillery, the Union states show the following totals of sea coast, siege and garrison, and field guns:  Maine—19;  New Hampshire—22;  Massachusetts—265;  Rhode Island—151;  Connecticut—73;  New York—744;  Pennsylvania—295;  Maryland—81;  District of Columbia—490;  Missouri—11;  Kansas—4;  New Mexico—5;  California—197: for a total of 2,357 Union guns.

The seceding states show the following number of heavy guns:  Virginia—864;  North Carolina—41;  South Carolina—133;  Georgia—22;  Florida—464;  Alabama—79;  Louisiana—187;  Texas—10;  Arkansas—10:  for a total of 1,810 Confederate guns. A large proportion of these guns was coastal artillery, and would not offer the advantage of small size or mobility to support the field armies of the South.  We might conclude then, that the Confederate states, at the time of secession, held about 77 percent as many artillery pieces as those held by the Union. So the North held a 1.3 to 1 ratio of advantage over the South in terms of the big guns.

Drawing of a typical 6-pounder field gun with parts labeled. The St. Louis Arsenal did not have many artillery pieces when the war began, but once the Union controlled the facility, thousands of heavy guns and millions of rounds of ammunition passed through here on the way to western armies.

Finally, with regard to the initial question of this article concerning the number of guns at the St. Louis Arsenal, the above chart, dated 21 January 1861, shows the state of Missouri to have an aggregate number (in its two arsenals) of 32,468 muskets and 5,673 rifles, for a total of 38,141 small arms.  Of artillery pieces, Missouri has two siege or garrison guns, and nine brass field guns and howitzers.  The chart does not show how many of each type of weapon were at each arsenal, but it is clear that the St. Louis Arsenal contained the vast majority of ordnance in Missouri and the Liberty Arsenal held just enough to equip a small militia force in the northwestern part of the state—probably 1,500 small arms.  This becomes the key information necessary to answer the question of how many guns were at the St. Louis Arsenal in the opening days of the war.   If all of Missouri had 38,141 small arms, and the Liberty Arsenal held approximately 1,500 of those arms, that would leave the St. Louis Arsenal with about 36,600 small arms (OR Ser 3, Vol 1, p 43—see App A.13).

As far as artillery is concerned, it is likely that nine or ten guns were located at the St. Louis Arsenal at the beginning of the war.  This dispels the notion of some writers that the arsenal held up to forty artillery pieces.[5] Early in the war the St. Louis Arsenal simply had no reason to have large numbers of cannon in its inventory.  It was a supplier of western posts and western state militias, few of which had any need for artillery.

Go to Part II

Events of Early 1861 Affect the St. Louis Arsenal

Conclusion

Part I:

Introduction

Sources and Methodology

Background of the Arsenal

The St. Louis Arsenal in the Years Leading up to the Civil War

Return to Part I

Part II:

Events of Early 1861 Affect the St. Louis Arsenal

Conclusion

Go to Part II

Bibliography

Appendix A

Appendix B

Appendix C

Appendix D


[1] The full title of this excellent series is The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.  It was published in 70 volumes between 1880 and 1901.

[2]Harper’s Ferry Armory, VA—18,322;  Fort Monroe Arsenal, VA—372;  Fayetteville Arsenal, NC—9,363;  Charleston Arsenal, SC—3,227;  Mount Vernon Arsenal, AL—2,396;  Baton Rouge Arsenal, LA—13,160;  San Antonio Arsenal, TX—1,561;  Little Rock Arsenal, AR—403.

[3]It might be noted at this point that all of the figures discussed above represent a theoretical consideration of the status of arms nine months prior to secession. In the subsequent year, more arms would be manufactured and distributed throughout the North and South, but the relative percentages of arms would remain about the same. As it turned out, southerners were shocked and disappointed when Missouri did not secede from the Union and the St. Louis Arsenal arms remained in Union hands. But another surprise occurred when Fort Monroe could not be taken by Confederate forces during the entire war and its humble (1859) collection of 372 small arms likewise remained with the Union. While the loss of the St. Louis Arsenal was judged a great tragedy to the Confederacy, the absence of the Fort Monroe arms would not appreciably affect its firepower.

[4]See North Carolina under the “total small arms” column.

[5]See the figures estimated by some of the historians cited in Geo Rule’s article.  At least one source says that there were one or two old cannon captured at Liberty Arsenal and later used at Wilson’s Creek, which would suggest that St. Louis held nine or ten.

John Brooks Henderson Author of 13th Amendment

JOHN BROOKS HENDERSON

Author of The Thirteenth Amendment Abolishing

Slavery in the United States

introduced and transcribed by Kirby Ross

Introduction by Kirby Ross:

Contemporary historians of Civil War Missouri have long been generally preoccupied with telling the stories of the same individuals and events over and over again.  Overlooked in the process have been key Missouri war-era figures, some of whom achieved greatness not only in the state, but also in the nation as a whole.  One such person was Pike County’s John B. Henderson, whose actions in the 1860s continue to reverberate into the 21st century.

Born in 1826 and orphaned before he was ten years old, Henderson was “bound out” to a farmer until his eighteenth birthday.  Enduring first-hand a life of involuntary servitude under a master, he overcame his circumstances and as he grew to maturity taught himself the law.  By the time he was age 20 he was a practicing attorney and by age 22 a state legislator.  In the course of the next dozen years Henderson served another term in the General Assembly, was appointed state court judge as well as inspector general and colonel of militia, and amassed a personal fortune, primarily in the speculation of land but also through banking and road construction interests.  He played a major role on the side of the Union during the Rebellion and was credited by Thomas L. Snead, one Missouri’s foremost Confederates, as being “the most conspicuous opponent of Secession” that Missouri produced.  Henderson’s actions in the final days of the conflict and the months immediately thereafter prompted one of his peers to admit “I envy him that fame which couples his name” regarding his most important achievement, and caused a politician by the name of John F. Kennedy to use words such as “high courage,” “sense of honor,” and “integrity,” in discussing him almost 100 years later.

Despite this, Henderson has been strangely forgotten, as has his role in authoring and shepherding through Congress the most important addition to the United States Constitution in the past 200 years.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as

a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have

been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States,

or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Prior to Henderson’s writing of these words Abraham Lincoln had issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which acted to free slaves in Confederate-held areas but left those in United States controlled areas in bondage.  Not being enforceable where it was in effect, the intent of the Emancipation Proclamation was essentially moral.  It was also intended to prepare the country for what was to come.  That what was to come soon emerged from John Brooks Henderson of Pike County, Missouri.  And while Lincoln’s profound words in his Proclamation electrified a nation, Henderson’s words did something that Lincoln’s did not.

Henderson’s words freed a race.


The following biographical profile of Henderson was written by Floyd C. Shoemaker (1886-1972) and first appeared in his 1918 book, Missouri’s Hall of Fame: Lives of Eminent Missourians.  Shoemaker was the head of the State Historical Society of Missouri from 1915 through 1960.  In the course of his tenure at that institution he oversaw the publishing of 45 volumes of the Missouri Historical Review, edited an ongoing series of newspaper articles entitled “This Week in Missouri History,” and wrote, edited, or supervised the creation of over 90 other historical publications.


JOHN BROOKS HENDERSON

Author of The Thirteenth Amendment Abolishing

Slavery in the United States

by Floyd C. Shoemaker

Transcribed and submitted by Kirby Ross

From Missouri’s Hall of Fame: Lives of Eminent Missourians, 1918

From orphan to statesman is the career of some of America’s greatest men.  This country is the land of opportunity.  To him who labors and studies with care, greater prospects of success are found in the United States than in any other nation.  Here men are given a chance.  If they fail it is usually their own fault.  Among those who took advantage of their opportunity, is John Brooks Henderson—lawyer and statesman.

Born in Virginia on November 16, 1826, John Brooks Henderson came of southern parentage.  His father and mother moved to Missouri in 1832 and both died before John was ten years old.  They left him small means with which to educate himself.  He attended the common schools of Lincoln county, Missouri, and was a good student.  He earned his first money teaching school, but his ambition was to be a lawyer.

He was admitted to the bar in 1848 and began his practice of law in Louisiana, Missouri, the following year.  He lived in Louisiana until 1861 and built up a fine law practice.

At the early age of twenty-one years he was elected to represent Pike county in the Missouri Legislature and was again elected in 1856.  In 1860 he was a candidate for Congress but was defeated by the more experienced and older politician, James S. Rollins.

Up to this time John Brooks Henderson had been a Democrat.  Altho born and reared in the South, he opposed slavery.  At the outbreak of the Civil War he became a Republican and gave his services to the Union.  He was elected to the Missouri State Convention in St. Louis in 1861 and was one of the leading Unionists in that body.  The same year he was appointed brigadier-general in the Missouri Militia and labored for the Union cause in the five Northeast Missouri counties in his district.  He was appointed United States Senator in 1862 and was elected to that body from Missouri in 1863.  His term expired on March 4, 1869, when he was succeeded by that other well known and patriotic statesman, Carl Schurz.

On retiring from the Senate he made his home in St. Louis.  In 1872 he was a candidate for Governor of Missouri, but being a Republican, was defeated.  He was also defeated in 1872 for the office of United States Senator from Missouri.  He served as Assistant United States District Attorney in 1875 by appointment of President Grant, and in 1884 was president of the National Republican Convention.

He retired from the practice of law in 1887 and the following year moved to Washington, D.C., where he lived until his death on April 12, 1913.  While he lived in Washington he held several honorary positions and was a favorite in social circles in his advanced age.

As a lawyer, Senator Henderson was one of the ablest and most widely known members of the Missouri Bar.  He was successful, able and honest.  He always charged a client a high fee, having begun this practice as a young man.  He regarded his services as valuable and he impressed this point on people by his charge.  They were few, however, who criticized this practice, because his clients knew that they could rely upon him.  Altho his opponents were frequently of the highest ability, he was their equal in the courts of the land.  He always studied a case thoroly, read all the books and records bearing on it, and then usually obtained a verdict in his favor.  He was not a good jury lawyer and did not enjoy trying to arouse sympathy or enthusiasm by appeals of oratory.  He was not an orator but a cool logical speaker.  He did not move men by humor and pathos but by facts.  This is one reason why he confined his practice to the higher courts, where logic and not sympathy is supreme.

Successful as he was as a lawyer, Senator Henderson will live in history as a statesman.  There is this similarity, however, between his career as a lawyer and as a statesman—he always influenced his fellow-men by statements of facts, and was always guided by principles of honesty.  Altho his services to the state and nation as a statesman were performed during a period of only eleven years, they left a permanent impression on the laws of this country.  He served two terms in the Legislature of Missouri and during these four years he was active in framing railroad and banking laws for the state, some of which are the foundations of our present system of laws on these subjects.

His career as a United States Senator, covering seven years, would fill a volume if all were written.  He was one of the leaders in the United States Senate and was a member of a number of important committees.  He was instrumental in having adopted the general policy of making peace treaties with the Indian tribes over the nation.  He was also able to have the National Government reimburse the State of Missouri for war expenditures.  His most conspicuous piece of legislation was the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery in this country.  Senator Henderson wrote this amendment and introduced it in the United States Senate.

He was also one of the advocates of the clause in the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which stated that the right to vote should not be denied on account of race, color, or previous conditions of servitude.

Perhaps his most unpopular act as a statesman was when he voted for the acquittal of President Andrew Johnson on the impeachment charges which had been preferred against him.  Henderson voted for his acquittal and Johnson was not convicted.  This act of Henderson’s cost him re-election to the United States Senate and ended his public career in Missouri.  History, however, has endorsed the unpopular stand that was taken by Missouri’s United States Senator.

John Brooks Henderson does not rank with the greatest men Missouri has produced.  His career as a public man was short.  His influence on political conditions in Missouri was short lived.  Belonging to the opposite political party in control in Missouri, his opportunity for service was limited.  His removal to Washington D.C., ended his public career.  During these few years, however, he achieved much.  As the author of the Thirteenth Amendment alone his name will be remembered.  To this single distinction will be added his patriotic stand for the Union in 1861, his leadership in the United States Senate on many public questions, and his high position as a lawyer in Missouri.

Pike county, Missouri has been the home of many eminent men and not least of these is John Brooks Henderson.

James O Broadhead by Kirby Ross

Posted December 6, 2002

Autobiography of Samuel S. Hildebrand
by Kirby Ross, Samuel S. Hildebrand, James W. Evans, A. Wendell Keith

available at Amazon.com

The True Life Wild West Memoir of a Bush-Popping Cow Waddy

By Charley Hester, Edited by Kirby Ross

available for pre-order at Amazon.com

Civil War St. Louis contributing author Kirby Ross published in North & South magazine, Vol 6, issue 7

The Burning of Doniphan by Kirby Ross

(Vol 6, Issue 7 of North & South mails to subscribers October 21st; on sale in stores November 11th)

JAMES O. BROADHEAD

ARDENT UNIONIST, UNREPENTANT SLAVEHOLDER

by Kirby Ross

While serious students of Missouri Civil War history readily recognize the name James O. Broadhead, it is usually in regard to his seven-month tenure as Provost Marshal General of the Department of the Missouri.  His prior very key role in holding Missouri in the Union is otherwise generally overlooked and he himself forgotten—this even though it was once said of him “his powers were almost absolute.”1 Despite his leading position among Missouri Unionists, he was a proud Southerner and well into the Civil War continued to cling to the notion that slavery should be preserved.  As a slaveholder at the dawn of hostilities he once proclaimed, “I am willing to go as far as any living man to protect the institution of slavery in the State of Missouri.  I have no prejudice against the institution.  I have been raised with the institution, and I know something of it.”2 Even as he was being assigned in 1863 to the position of Provost Marshal General—a military command that encompassed Missouri, Arkansas, Indian Territory, Kansas, and southern Iowa—he maintained this mind-set and was reported to have gone so far as to assert that “every damned Abolitionist in the country should be hung.”3

Despite these extreme sentiments and the fact he grew up in Virginia, few men doubted Broadhead’s loyalty to the Union as the war found its way to Missouri.  After the Rebellion was over an ex-Confederate Congressman referred to Broadhead as having been “a trusted counsellor of Mr. Lincoln.”  And an observer on the other side of the conflict later noted, “No man…was more stalwart in his Unionism, or took a more active part when war came, in supporting the Federal Government than did James O. Broadhead.”4

For those that might be unsure about his priorities Broadhead explained, “I am a slave owner myself, but I am not willing to sacrifice other interests to the slave interest….”  Emphasizing the nature of the interests he was willing to place over and above his slave interests, Broadhead also offered words that familiarly echoed ones once uttered by his more famous cousin, Patrick Henry: “Who would not be willing to meet these calamities to preserve the Union and Missouri in the Union and secure to ourselves and our posterity such a destiny as most assuredly awaits us.  That man who does not know when to die is not fit to live; and what better time to offer up our lives than in behalf of such a cause?”5

To understand the paradox of Broadhead, one must look far back into his ancestry and his birthplace.  “Born at the South,” Broadhead once said, “I think I know something of my duty to the South as well as to the Constitution of my country.”  As a native son of Charlottesville, Virginia, it was said by one of his contemporaries that he “imbibed in his youth and early manhood the spirit which actuated the fathers of the Republic.”  Another acquaintance made a similar observation in noting that Broadhead “grew to manhood in an atmosphere created by eminent statesmen and permeated by a love of country, a patriotic devotion to public duty, and a full recognition of the obligation which rests upon the citizen.”6

This “spirit” and “atmosphere” created by eminent statesmen radiated from Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, who also hailed from Charlottesville.  Furthermore, not only was Broadhead a cousin of Patrick Henry but also of Dolley Madison.  In his formative years he was a frequent guest in her house where the host of the manor was James Madison, the “Father of the U.S. Constitution.”  Young James Broadhead’s “personal acquaintance and relations with ex-President Madison served to foster still further these virtues” of love of country and patriotic devotion to it.7

Broadhead’s ties to the Founding Fathers ran deeper still, however.  His father Achilles Broadhead was commissioned by Thomas Jefferson to survey the grounds that became the University of Virginia.8 In an even more powerful connection to Jefferson, Dabney Carr, the brother of James’s grandfather Garland Carr, was the beloved childhood friend of Jefferson.  This relationship ultimately evolved from friendship to kinship upon the marriage of Broadhead’s Uncle Dabney to Martha Jefferson, the third President’s sister.  When Dabney died he was the first person to be laid to rest in the new burial grounds of Monticello.  Jefferson interred the body so it would one day be directly at his own side and then placed a headstone over Dabney’s remains that contained the inscription “To His Virtue, Good Sense, Learning and Friendship this stone is dedicated by Thomas Jefferson, who of all men living loved him most.”  After the burial, Jefferson took the Carr children into his household and raised them as his own.9

Completing the atmosphere that so-compelled slaveholder James Overton Broadhead to fight for the very cause that ultimately resulted in the extinction of the “peculiar institution,” Broadhead was also distantly related by marriage to Martha Washington and Mary Todd Lincoln.10


Having completed studies in Red Hills at the classical school of his uncle, Dr. Francis Carr, Broadhead thereafter entered the University of Virginia in 1836 at age 16.  When in 1837 most of his immediate family removed to St. Charles County, Missouri, James remained behind and taught at a private school near Baltimore before joining them out west a year later.  Upon his arrival the scholarly aristocrat joined the employ of the Hon. Edward Bates as a tutor for his children.11

Bates, a prominent attorney as well as nationally recognized Whig politician, reversed roles and soon took Broadhead on as student of his own in the study of law.  By 1842 Broadhead was licensed as an attorney and had moved to Pike County.  Within three more years Broadhead was following in his mentor’s footsteps and was active in state politics as a Whig.  At the age of 26 he was elected to be a delegate to Missouri’s second constitutional convention.  The following year he was sent by Pike County to the state house of representatives, and four years afterward to the state senate.12

Shortly before the Civil War began, Broadhead moved from Pike to St. Louis where he entered into a law partnership with Fidelio C. Sharp, an affiliation that by 1873 grew into “the largest legal practice of any firm, not only in Missouri, but in the West.”13 Then in 1860 Edward Bates, now a Republican, was a candidate for the presidency of the United States.  Strongly backed by newspaperman Horace Greeley, Bates was thought in some quarters to have a good chance at gaining the party nomination.  Instead, Abraham Lincoln was chosen to be the standard-bearer but promptly appointed Bates to be his Attorney General after the general election.14

Broadhead’s own politics began to evolve around this time, although he remained committed to the institution of slavery.  Shortly after the election he admitted, “it is true I voted for Lincoln—and yet I am not exactly a Republican, certainly not a Black Republican….”  Asserting “Lincoln is himself an honest man and a patriot,” Broadhead attributed his support of the Illinoisan to be a consequence of Lincoln’s pro-business economic platform and his advocacy for a strong government, as well as his Free-soil stance that would leave slavery alone where it existed (the Emancipation Proclamation was still far off and unforeseen).  Broadhead did state abhorrence for the fringe groups of the Party—the Red Republicans (labor agitators) and the “fanatical” Black Republicans (Abolitionists), a body that he claimed “is the smallest class.”  All a very interesting perspective given that the Republican Party of 1860 that Broadhead was involved in and spoke of is now seen in a significantly different light in the hindsight of modern times and through the intervening prism of the American Civil War.15

After moving to St. Louis Broadhead began to associate closely with U.S. Congressman Frank Blair, who was a leading opponent of secession in Missouri.  As early as 1859 Blair urged Broadhead to run for the Missouri Supreme Court and advised him he could help deliver at least 10,000 votes.  Although this entreaty was not accepted, Broadhead’s relationship with Blair continued to expand and ultimately developed to the point where “Broadhead was his right hand, his chief lieutenant.”  So close were the two that one day Blair would ask Broadhead to give the nominating speech at a national convention when he ran for President.  Broadhead would also serve as his pallbearer several years after that.16

As Blair rallied his supporters, in February 1861 he was instrumental in forming the Committee of Safety, whose “purpose was to serve as the executive committee of the Union party.”  Besides Blair, five other men were selected for the Committee, and among their ranks was James Broadhead, who was appointed secretary of the group.  Under the auspices of this organization an armed force of Loyalists was recruited in the city and within a short time several regiments were mobilized.17

A couple of weeks after he joined the Committee of Safety, running on a campaign slogan of “the Union at any cost” Broadhead was also elected to serve as a delegate to the State Convention assembled to decide the question of whether Missouri should secede from the Union.18 As a leader of the Unconditional Unionist, on March 14, 1861, he addressed the group.  By now Broadhead was also a proponent of the belief that secession would result in economic disaster for the state.  Furthermore, should Missouri leave the Union the Fugitive Slave Act would be abrogated—an act that legally required free states to assist in the return of escaped slaves to their owners.  Surrounded on three sides by what would be a foreign country if the secessionists were successful, slaves in Missouri would readily find freedom in Kansas, Iowa, and Illinois after secession just as easily as if they made their way all the way to Canada before secession.19

In his address to the Convention Broadhead observed that Missouri stood directly along the route between the eastern United States and western United States.  He stated that “efforts have been made for the purpose of connecting the Atlantic with the Pacific Ocean, by means of a railroad, in order that the wealth of the Indies may be poured into the lap of this country of ours.  And Missouri stands in the pathway of nations; over her soil this pathway must run, just as inevitably as fate.  And do you suppose that the accumulated interest of the East and the West, and I may say the world, will ever submit to have an interdict placed upon that pathway?”  In dramatic fashion Broadhead was arguing that even if the Deep South were allowed to remove itself from the Union, geographic positioning made Missouri different than those states.  Consequently, as Broadhead opined, “I say, then, gentlemen of the Convention, that Missouri cannot go out of the Union if she would; and I think I know what I say when I speak it, that she has not the power to go out of the Union if she would.”20

Several weeks after the March session of the Convention concluded, Abraham Lincoln issued orders that effectively federalized the paramilitary forces raised by the Committee of Safety, thus allowing them to operate under color of authority as U.S. Volunteers.  Now permitted to recruit up to 10,000 troops, additional loyal citizens of St. Louis were brought into another umbrella organization known as the United States Reserve Corps.  Thomas William Sweeny of the Regular Army was placed in command of the five regiments of the Reserve Corps, with James Broadhead assigned to his staff at the rank of major.21

The President also issued orders for the U.S. military in St. Louis to consult closely with the Committee of Safety and to go so far as to proclaim martial law in the city if deemed necessary by the members of the Committee.  Lincoln specifically referred to Broadhead by name in this order.22 One historian later elaborated on the extraordinary influence of the Safety Committee—“Into its hands was given absolute authority in all matters concerning the Union cause in St. Louis….  The Committee became the central medium of advice, information, and direction of the Union activities of the City, and a little later, throughout the State of Missouri.”23

The Committee was not lax in exercising its considerable power in the course of the compulsory military consultations.  When the U.S. general commanding in Missouri, William S. Harney, did not act according to their desires the Committee petitioned Washington and saw to it that he was removed and replaced by Nathaniel Lyon, a much more aggressive officer.24

With Federal authorities concerned about the creation of the Southern-sympathizing Camp Jackson on the outskirts of St. Louis in early May, Lyon asked leave of the Committee for permission to close it down.  Upon receiving their acquiescence, with Secretary Broadhead voting guardedly in favor of the plan, on May 10 Lyon surrounded the military encampment and took its occupants prisoner.  Marching them through the streets of St. Louis, a crowd began to gather along the route.  In the course of events one shot was fired, then another, and very quickly a general maelstrom swept across the area.  When the smoke cleared at least twenty-eight men had lost their lives and many more were wounded.25

While not commenting on the deaths that resulted from this affair, Broadhead did discern a marked shift in the balance of power in the city that resulted from the dispersal of the camp.  Writing to an acquaintance eleven days later Broadhead said the action “operated like a poultice—the inflammation has been drawn out of the great numbers of men [in St. Louis] who were heretofore rampant secessionists.”26

With events happening very quickly in Missouri, Broadhead expanded his Union-supporting activities.  Simultaneous to his service as a major in the Reserve Corps and delegate to the State Convention, he was also appointed by Bates to serve as Assistant United States Attorney.  In that latter position Broadhead was party to a decision made in concert with Attorney General Bates to pursue prosecutions for treason, but only in extreme cases and only when the chances of a conviction were certain.  The treason card was not to be played precipitately.27 One case Broadhead did bring forward—in fact it was the first treason indictment he drew up—was against Governor Claiborne F. Jackson.  This charge was the consequence of a search warrant Broadhead executed that resulted in the seizure of a letter written by Jackson on April 28, 1861, that spoke freely about plans for taking Missouri out of the Union.  Writing a confidential communication to a friend, on May 21 Broadhead discussed the development:  “we have a warrant out for Jackson for treason, but it will not be served yet—perhaps not at all—if he makes the proper settlement.”  (This may very well mark the only time in United States history that a sitting governor has been indicted for treason.)28

A settlement to Broadhead’s liking remained elusive as the situation deteriorated further over the next few weeks.  All finally came to a climax on June 11 in a meeting at the Planter’s House in St. Louis between General Lyon, Governor Jackson, and Jackson’s head of militia, General Sterling Price.  When the negotiations reached an impasse, Lyon rose to his feet and angrily exited the room thundering “This means war!” on his way out.  Whether Broadhead was now ready to serve his warrant is unknown, since Jackson and Price immediately returned to the capital at Jefferson City, gathered their allies, packed the state records, and promptly proceeded on a journey west and then south that saw a large part of the elected Missouri government spend the remainder of the war in exile.29

Afterward, the State Convention reassembled to address the absence of a governing body in Jefferson City.  James Broadhead was appointed chair of a committee formed to consider the status of the state government and to recommend a course of action regarding it.  Broadhead seized upon language the now-absent Governor and General Assembly (legislature) had given force of law when they enacted the bill that created the Convention.  Passed by a very overwhelming margin of 30-2 in the senate and 105-8 in the house of representatives, Section 5 of that statute specifically gave the Convention delegates the power “to adopt such measures for vindicating the sovereignty of the State and the protection of its institutions as shall appear to them to be demanded.”30 Wrote Broadhead on the authority granted, “If the Convention is to be limited in its action by the provisions of the act of the General Assembly, it is difficult to perceive how language could have been used which would have vested it with greater powers.”31

In taking full advantage of the legislature’s legal authorization allowing the Convention to adopt measures that appeared to be needed to protect the state’s institutions, Broadhead issued a report that recommended, among other things, that the offices of governor and lieutenant governor be declared vacated, as well as the General Assembly.  This recommendation was ultimately accepted by a two to one margin by the whole of the Convention, which then promptly appointed Edward Bates’ brother-in-law Hamilton Gamble to fill the position of Provisional Governor.  The Convention thereupon proceeded to act as a legislative body until new elections could be held.32

So went James Broadhead’s very major and very forgotten actions in those first days and weeks of the war in Missouri.  Thirteen years after the close of hostilities one writer summed up his role by stating, “looking back at the critical condition of the government in the early part of 1861, the importance of these prompt proceedings assume immense proportions.  What Mr. Broadhead accomplished in the preservation of the Union . . . can never be fully estimated.33

His activities that followed, important though they might have been in the scheme of events, were almost anti-climactic compared to what had preceded them.  Broadhead spent 1862 serving on the military staff of Provisional Governor Gamble as Judge Advocate General, at the rank of colonel.  He also continued in the employ of Edward Bates where he received a promotion from Assistant U.S. Attorney to U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, where he served from November 1861 through August 1862.34

The following year he was commissioned lieutenant colonel of the Third Missouri State Militia Cavalry Regiment, a Pike County unit.  He was then detached from the regiment and assigned to the post of Provost Marshal General for the Department of the Missouri from June 1863 through January 1864.  In this position he ironically wielded far more power than his commanding officer in the Third M.S.M. (who happened to be Edward Bates’ cousin and law partner).  While his wife’s brothers—John and Caleb Dorsey of Pike County—and their Confederate activities occasionally bedeviled him in his position as PMG, his Conservative Unionist policies offered relative moderation towards the non-combatant slaveholding and Southern-oriented citizenry of the state, as well as extreme aggravation to his Radical Unionist political opponents that desired sterner action on his part.35

After the war Broadhead continued his association with Frank Blair, and together they pursued an effort to repeal the onerous restrictions placed upon ex-Confederates in Missouri.  It was said of Broadhead “he had taken a bold stand against the provisions of the Drake Constitution, which not only destroyed the citizenship, but prevented many from pursuing their vocations as a means of earning their daily bread.  He was equally outspoken in denouncing the reconstruction acts of Congress as revolutionary.”36 In 1868 and 1872 he was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention and in 1875 played a leading role in the Missouri Constitutional Convention.  The following year he was appointed special counsel for the U.S. Attorney’s office in St. Louis and assisted in the prosecution of the so-called “Whisky Ring”—a scandal that reached directly into the White House.  That same year he was the Missouri delegation’s favorite son choice for President of the United States at the Democratic National Convention.  Two years later he helped found the American Bar Association and was elected to be that organization’s first president.37

In 1882 Broadhead successfully ran for the United States Congress, and, after serving one term, was appointed a special claims commissioner by Grover Cleveland.  Broadhead spent his sunset years as Minister to Switzerland from 1893 through 1897.  Finally retiring at the age of 78 years old, he returned home to St. Louis where he passed away on August 7, 1898.38

© 2002 by Kirby Ross

All Rights Reserved


1In Memoriam. James Overton Broadhead (St. Louis: Legal Publishing Company 1899) 42

2Samuel B. Harding, “Missouri Party Struggles in the Civil War Period,” American Historical Association Annual Report For the Year 1900 I (Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office 1901) 93; Journal and Proceedings of the Missouri State Convention, March 1861 (St. Louis: George Knapp & Co., Printers and Binders 1861) 122.

3St. Louis Democrat, 2 June 1863, p. 1; St. Louis Democrat, 10 June 1863, p. 1.  See also The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, 1880-1901) Ser. 1, Vol. LIII, p. 582 (hereinafter cited as Official Records).  The Democrat was a Radical Unionist newspaper very strongly opposed to the appointment of Conservative Unionist Broadhead as PMG.  The Official Records correspondence was a direct reflection of that newspaper’s reporting.  Whether Broadhead actually said these particular words is problematic and thus far no definitive support has been located elsewhere.

4Harding, 93; Thomas L. Snead, The Fight For Missouri (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons 1886) 88

5Missouri State Convention, March 1861, 122-123; In Memoriam, 41-42.  For Broadhead’s relationship to Patrick Henry, see Howard L. Conard and William Hyde, eds., Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis I (New York: The Southern History Company 1899) 241; Garland Carr Broadhead, “Carrs, Winstons and Barretts,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (April 1898) 442; Garland Carr Broadhead, “The Family of Achilles Broadhead,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (October 1895) 212; Garland Carr Broadhead, “Carr Family,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (October 1895) 208-211; Garland Carr Broadhead “Carr Family,” The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography (April 1898) 440-441.  Robert Douthat Meade, Patrick Henry: Patriot in the Making (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company 1957) 23, 40, 53, 64, 65; Henry Mayer, A Son of Thunder: Patrick Henry and the American Republic (New York: Franklin Watts 1986) 24, 40, 47.  Patrick Henry was the grandson of Isaac Winston and Mary Dabney Winston, making him the first cousin of Broadhead’s maternal grandmother Mary Winston Carr.

6Conard and Hyde, 241; In Memoriam, 13, 30, 84; Missouri State Convention, March 1861, 122

7Conard and Hyde, 241; In Memoriam, 13, 84.  See also, Katharine Anthony, Dolly Madison: Her Life and Times (New York: Doubleday & Company Inc. 1949) 5; Ralph Ketcham, James Madison: A Biography (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia 1990) 376-377.  Like Patrick Henry and James Broadhead, Dolley Madison was a direct descendant of Isaac Winston and Mary Dabney Winston.  Broadhead’s great-grandfather, Colonel William “Langloo” Winston, was a brother of Lucy Winston Coles, Dolley Madison’s grandmother.  See, “Carrs, Winstons and Barretts”; “The Family of Achilles Broadhead”; “Carr Family” Oct. 1895; “Carr Family” Apr. 1898.

8Plat of Land (A. Broadhead), 15 Nov. 1825, Accession #RG-5/3/1.002, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.

9Rev. Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia (Charlottesville: The Michie Company 1901) 160-161; “Carrs, Winstons and Barretts”; “The Family of Achilles Broadhead”; “Carr Family” Oct. 1895; “Carr Family” Apr. 1898; Thomas Fleming, The Man From Monticello (New York: William Morrow and Company 1969) 8, 12, 22-23; William Howard Adams, Jefferson’s Monticello (New York: Abbeville Press 1983) 259; Willard Sterne Randall, Thomas Jefferson: A Life (New York: Henry Holt and Company 1993) 90, 176

10See Conard and Hyde, 386; “Carrs, Winstons and Barretts”; Mark Freeman, 20 Mar. 2002, “Thomas Carr of Caroline and Louisa Co., Va.,” http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.com/~markfreeman/carr_lou.html

11In Memoriam, 21; William E. Parrish, “James Overton Broadhead,” American National Biography III (New York: Oxford University Press 1999) 579; “Hon. James O. Broadhead,” The United States Biographical Dictionary Missouri Volume (Kansas City: Press of Ramsey, Millett & Hudson 1878) 434-435; St. Louis: the Future Great City (St. Louis: C.R. Barnes 1876) 636-637

12In Memoriam, 21-22, 33; American National Biography, 579; United States Biographical Dictionary, 435.  See also John Vollmer Mering, The Whig Party in Missouri (Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press 1967)

13“Hon. James O. Broadhead,” The Century Magazine III (August, 1873) 2

14Parrish, American National Biography, 329-330; History of St. Charles, Montgomery and Warren Counties, Missouri (St. Louis: National Historical Company 1885) 207; Perry McCandles, A History of Missouri II (Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press 1972) 280.  See also Marvin R. Cain, Lincoln’s Attorney General Edward Bates of Missouri (Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press 1965)

15“Fragments of the Broadhead Collection,” MHS, Glimpses of the Past, 2, 4 (March 1935) 49-51

16Ibid.; In Memoriam, 45; William E. Parrish, Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative (Columbia: University of Missouri Press 1998) 254

17Lieutenant-Colonel James O. Broadhead, “Early Events of the War in Missouri,” War Papers and Personal Reminiscences—Missouri (St. Louis: Becktold & Co. 1892) 4-5, 8, 9-12, 18-19; United States Biographical Dictionary, 435-436; Walter Harrington Ryle, Missouri: Union or Secession (Nashville: George Peabody College For Teachers 1931) 206

18Robert J. Rombauer, The Union Cause in St. Louis in 1861 (St. Louis: Press of Nixon-Jones Printing Co. 1909) 191; Conard and Hyde, 241

19For Broadhead’s position on the economic issue, see Missouri State Convention, March 1861, p. 122-123.  For a concise presentation of the Unionist economic argument, see Ryle, 208-209.

20Missouri State Convention, March 1861, 122-123

21Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol. 1, p. 675; United States Biographical Dictionary, p. 436; War Papers and Personal Reminiscences, 5; Adjutant General’s Report of Missouri State Militia For the Year 1861 (St. Louis: George Knapp & Co., Printers and Binders 1862) 6; James O. Broadhead, “St. Louis During the War,” James O. Broadhead Papers, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis; “General Sweeny’s: A Museum of Civil War History,” 15 Nov. 2002, http://www.civilwarmuseum.com/gensweeny.html

22Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol. 1, p. 675

23Ryle, 206

24United States Biographical Dictionary, 436; William E. Parrish, A History of Missouri 1860-1875 (Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press 1973) 10-11

25Ibid.; Parrish, A History of Missouri 1860-1875, 12-14; War Papers and Personal Reminiscences, 19-22; James Peckham, Gen. Nathaniel Lyon and Missouri in 1861 (New York: American News Company, Publisher 1866) 140-141

26“Fragments of the Broadhead Collection,” 57-58

27James O. Broadhead correspondence to Edward Bates, 4 Apr. 1862, James O. Broadhead Papers, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis; Official Records, Ser. 2, Vol. I, p. 277; Louis S. Gerteis, Civil War St. Louis (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas 2001) 169

28War Papers and Personal Reminiscences, 22-26; “Fragments of the Broadhead Collection,” 58

29Parrish, A History of Missouri 1860-1875, 22-23

30 Journal of the Missouri State Convention, July 1861 (St. Louis: George Knapp & Co., Printers and Binders 1861) 5, 9-10; W.F. Switzler, Illustrated History of Missouri From 1541 to 1877 (Saint Louis: C.R. Barns, Editor and Publisher 1879) 322; Eugene Morrow Violette, A History Of Missouri (Cape Girardeau, MO: Ramfre Press 1960 reprint, 1918) 328; Louisiana (Mo.) Journal, 1 Aug. 1861, p. 2

31Missouri State Convention, July 1861, 10

32Missouri State Convention, July 1861, 5-12, 17-18, 20-22, 25

33United States Biographical Dictionary, 436

34Annual Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Missouri for 1862 (St. Louis 1862) 3; Gerteis, 269; In Memoriam, 42

35United States Biographical Dictionary, 436; In Memoriam, 42

36In Memoriam, 44; See, William E. Parrish, Missouri Under Radical Rule, 1865-1870 (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press 1965) 58, 78, 84, 88, 248, 305, 315; Parrish, Frank Blair: Lincoln’s Conservative, 236, 241, 245, 251

37Biographical Dictionary of the United States, 436-437; “Broadhead, James Overton,” 29 May 2000, Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, http://bioguide.congress.gov/scripts/

biodisplay.pl?index=B000848

38 Ibid.

OAK Call to Arms

The OAK Call to Arms

There has been a goodly amount of dispute about the aims, capabilities, and size of the copperhead society OAK–the Order of American Knights. For many years after the war, it was an article of faith that the copperheads —northern sympathizers with the south—had engaged in treason against the Union, and planned armed uprisings aimed at forcing an end to the war. This plan has generally come down to us under the rubric “The Northwest Conspiracy“. The general idea was based on the fact that the Northeast was the hotbed of abolitionism and the driving engine politically behind the Northern war effort, but the Northwest (today’s Midwest) was much more politically ambivalent. Since the Northwest provided much of the armed strength of the Union armies, if it could be forced out of the war, recalling its regiments, then the Northeast would have no choice but to accept Southern independence.

The works of Frank L. Klement (“The Limits of Dissent”, “Lincoln’s Critics”, “Dark Lanterns”, etc) seriously undermined the earlier understanding. In a series of books (1960-1999) on the copperheads, Klement argued that they were really a misunderstood “loyal opposition” to the Lincoln administration, and that whatever sins they had committed were of the venial or “indiscreet” variety. According to Klement, most of the hullabaloo over the copperheads and OAK (which used various names in different locales) was caused by ambitious Union officers and politicians who really knew better, but were intent on making political hay at the expense of the Democrats.

While Klement did some outstanding basic research in the area, his overriding desire to whitewash the copperheads’ connections to the Confederate secret service can only be described as blatant. In addition, not content with saying they were just wrong, Klement besmirches the memory and contributions of some fine Union officers and public servants in his rush to acquit the copperheads of the charges.

In Missouri, Klement’s ire is pointedly unleashed against Union department commander General William Rosecrans and his Provost Marshal, J. P. Sanderson. Released in the summer of 1864, “The Sanderson Report” alleged that OAK was planning insurrection across the Northwest, that the Order was deeply involved with the Confederate secret service, and that indeed the military commander of OAK was none other than Missouri’s own General Sterling Price. According to the report, a new invasion of the state by Price was brewing, and OAK was planning to rise in support of it.

This is all moonshine and myth according to Klement, born of Rosecrans and Sanderson being more interested in furthering their careers and reputations than the well-being of the Union. Unfortunately for Klement, Price’s invasion of the state occurred just as Sanderson predicted, and the leadership of OAK did indeed attempt to rally their membership to rise in support of it. The call to arms below is taken from the Confederate Correspondence section of the Official Records. Unfortunately for the Missouri Confederates, it was too little too late. The fall of Atlanta in early September had sucked the life out of the copperheads, and made it all too clear that the Confederacy was on its last legs. Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that many of the rank & file copperheads of OAK (those who were needed to do the actual fighting and dying) declined to participate in Price’s invasion. That things did not turn out the way OAK planned does not change the fact that Rosecrans and Sanderson had accurately uncovered and reported OAK’s plans and future activities.


O.R.—SERIES I—VOLUME 41/3 pp. 975-976

O. A. K.

HEADQUARTERS,
Saint Louis, Mo., October 1, 1864.

To THE MEMBERS OF THE ORDER OF
AMERICAN KNIGHTS OF THE STATE OF MISSOURI:

SIR KNIGHTS: Morning dawneth. General Price with at least 20,000 veteran soldiers is now within your State. Through your supreme commander (and with the approbation of the supreme council) you invited him to come to your aid. He was assured that if he came at this time with the requisite force you would co operate and add at least 20,000 true men to his army. He has hearkend to your prayer and is now battling for your deliverance. Sons of Liberty, will you falsify your plighted word? I know you will not. You are strong in numbers—full 30,000 strong—and your influence is potent. It requires but prompt action on the part of the members to insure the ultimate triumph of our cause. As you value your property, your liberties, your lives, and your sacred honor, fail not to give a helping hand in this crisis. Under and by virtue of the authority vested in me by section — of the code of the O. A. K.s, authorizing the appointment of a major-general to command the members called into the military service, I shall appoint that brave and true soldier, Missouri’s favorite son, Maj. Gen. Sterling Price, military commander of the O. A. K.s of the State of Missouri.

All able-bodied men of the O. A. K.s are hereby called upon and required to render military service in behalf of our cause. All true knights will yield prompt obedience to the orders and commands of General Price. Meantime do all possible damage to the enemy. Seize all arms and munitions of war within your power. Take possession of and hold all important places you can, and recruit as rapidly as possible. If you cannot sustain yourselves fall back upon the army of occupation. In townships and counties where you cannot concentrate on account of the presence of the enemy repair singly or in squads without delay to the army, or to points where your brethren may be marshaling their forces, and in all cases be ready to obey the commands of your chieftain and unite with the forces when an opportune moment others. Ye knights, who belong to the militia, a change of government is now impending and you possess peculiar advantages for doing good service, and it is believed you will not fail to act efficiently. You joined the militia that you might the better protect yourselves under Radical rule. Now prepare to strike with the victorious hosts <ar85_976> under General Price and aid in the redemption of the State. Already hundreds of militiamen, arms in hands, have taken position beside the brave and gallant soldiers under General Price. In no event permit yourselves to be arrayed against your brethren. I enjoin it upon the district and county commanders and the grand seniors to be vigilant and active in the discharge of their respective duties. Let each one feel that upon him depends the successful issue of this contest, and that it is paramount duty to immediately enter the service. I address you perhaps for the last time. You have honored me and given me your confidence. I have endeavored to merit as I appreciate that consideration. Danger has not deterred me from the discharge of duty, and the period of my intercourse and collaboration with you and brethren of other States I shall ever revert to with feelings of pleasurable emotion. I have rejoiced to note the unanimity of sentiment and earnestness of purpose evinced to put forth every effort, with force of arms if need be, to establish the great principles of liberty and free government and States rights, so soon as the event which is upon us transpired. Brethren, the time for action has come. We must now meet the hosts of the tyrant in the field and sustain our friends and our cause. Be assured I shall buckle on my armor, and I trust I shall greet many thousands of you in the camp of our friends. If we do not sustain General Price, and our cause in consequence fails, all will be lost. We must fight. Honor and patriotism demand it. Then remember your solemn oaths. Remember the sacred obligations resting upon you and resolve, individually and collectively, to do your duty knowing it full well.

Until otherwise ordered headquarters of the O. A. K.s will be hereafter in the army of General Price.

All officers of the O. A. K.s are charged to use the utmost dispatch in communicating this letter to the members. Absence from the city prevented an earlier issue of this communication. Remember our motto: “Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God.”

Given under my hand and seal of the O. A. K.s of the State of Missouri, this 1st day of October, A. D. 1864.

JOHN H. TAYLOR,

Supreme Commander of the State of Missouri.

Sorrowful Revenge by Firing Squad!

True Tales of the Tenth Kansas Infantry

Sorrowful Revenge by Firing Squad!

by Howard Mann

Twenty-four year old Michael Zwicky of rural Washington, Missouri walked along St. John’s Creek on October 23, 1864 with four of his neighbors. They were hunting persimmons when suddenly they spied three bodies lying on the ground partially covered by leaves. Two were in federal uniform, one distinguished as an artillerist, and one in civilian clothing. Horrified, the young men saw three more bodies, one with major’s straps on his coat. The other two bodies were “torn to pieces (I suppose the hogs and buzzards tore them and I saw pieces of brown jeans lying around and near the bodies)”. Zwicky and his comrades hastily reburied the bodies since the retreating Confederate invasion force had recently passed through. They quickly notified the local Justice of the Peace and Coroner, Esquire Kleinbeck.[1]

Kleinbeck rounded up another local man, James M. Kitchen, to investigate the suspicious deaths. Kitchen had heard “fourteen or fifteen shots [being fired] in rapid succession” three weeks earlier on a Monday while hiding in the brush from Sterling Price’s invading forces. Kitchen rifled through the dead major’s pockets to try and identify him. He removed two pocket diaries, a receipt for $25, the two shoulder straps, and several sets of orders including one from Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, signed by his aide-de-camp, Captain Charles S. Hills, Tenth Kansas Infantry. In each case the recipient was Major James Wilson. The body with civilian clothing had a $10 Confederate bill and a $5 Federal greenback, and a photograph of a soldier. Kitchen also found a letter dated May 13, 1864 to “Mr. T. Boyd, ever dear and sweet husband. Most of the letter was unreadable.[2] By that time the Rebels had left the area quickly moving to the west and already on the verge of engaging the Kansas militia and Federal forces in front of Kansas City at the battle of Westport. Only a few weeks before (September 26-27) a much stronger Confederate army had broken itself on repeated charges against the self-same Brigadier General Thomas Ewing and a small 1,000-man force at Pilot Knob, Missouri. Among the missing Union men was Major James Wilson, 3rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry.

The Federal authorities were notified and had been looking for the missing Major. The mystery was quickly solved. Captain Hills had provided Major Wilson with orders early in the action when Price’s army converged across the Arcadia valley in front of Fort Davidson, Pilot Knob. He noted that Major Wilson had a minor head injury and was exhausted from regrouping his 3rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry trying to slow the Confederate onslaught. On September 27th, Wilson was captured along with Captain Franz Dinger, 47th Missouri Infantry.[3]

The first Union soldiers to again validate the identity the unfortunate Major Wilson was Lieutenant Colonel Amos W. Maupin of the 47th Missouri Infantry. Not having sufficient wagons he again buried the bodies by October 25th.[4] Finally on October 28th Lieutenant John F. Jacoby and a party from Wilson’s regiment, 3rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry, arrived with wagons to recover the bodies. Jacoby and his companions easily identified Major Wilson, whose eyes were gone and face blackened through decomposition. A wart on his forehead identified one of the other soldiers, Sergeant John W. Shaw, Company I, 3rd M.S.M. Cavalry.  Private William C. Grotte, of the same company, was recognized by his red hair and profuse freckles on his face and neck. One soldier recognized another man as Private William Skaggs, Company I. A less positive identification was of Corporal William R. Cowley (Gourley), Company I. The body clad in the artillery jacket may have belonged to Company I or K, 3rd M.S.M Cavalry. These companies originally were recruited as artillery and had kept the red-striped jackets. It was obvious that Sterling Price’s men had executed the dead Federals.[5]

In fact, Major Wilson and the entire 3rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry had bitter and personal enemies among Price’s army. The war in southeastern Missouri was waged between families and neighbors in adjoining counties. The balance of pro-Union supporters and pro-southern families dotted the countryside in the southernmost counties of Missouri along the Mississippi River and next to Arkansas. Opposing much of the area patrolled by the 3rd Missouri State Militia Cavalry were pro-Confederate Home Guard units such as Timothy Reeves Company of Independent Scouts. In 1862 events shaped a consolidation of these independent units into a battalion sized regiment, the 15th Missouri Cavalry Regiment, C.S.A. led by Colonel Timothy Reeves. Reeves, a rural Baptist minister, was targeted by the 3rd M.S.M. under Major James Wilson. Members of Wilson’s family were pro-southern and his loyalty to the Union cost him the relationship with his wife, children, brother and father. Since many of the men from both units had been local farmers in Ripley and Pike counties, the guerrilla aspect of war quickly escalated.

According to Kirby Ross in “Atrocity at Doniphan, Missouri” he describes the ensuing events:

“During the course of the war Wilson’s troops routed Reeves’ command several times.  Then on September 19, 1864, under orders from the Union command in St. Louis, Wilson dispatched a small task force consisting of troops from the 3rd M.S.M. and the 47th Missouri Infantry under First Lieutenant Erich Pape, with instructions to burn Doniphan, the seat of Ripley County.  After fulfilling their orders the Federal raiders retreated to the northeast, burning several farms along the route.  At Ponder’s Mill on the Little Black River a pursuing force of Confederates under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Rector Johnson surrounded them and a sharp skirmish ensued.  Several on both sides were killed or wounded, and six Union troops taken prisoner.  All of the prisoners were subsequently executed.”[6]

Reeves and Wilson were personal enemies and Wilson along with five hapless men of the 3rd M.S.M. was in General Sterling Price’s power. As Price’s army retreated away from Pilot Knob, let Brigadier General Thomas Ewing and his men slip from their grasp, and saw St. Louis eluding their invasion, Price decided to turn over his prisoners to Colonel Timothy Reeves and the 15th Missouri Cavalry near Union, Missouri.[7]

Reeves men marched Major Wilson and his men near St. John’s Creek in Franklin County, formed up the firing squad, shot and killed the men.  The dead were left where they lay. In his study of the executions, Kirby Ross continues:

After the war, three Confederates explained the motives behind the executions.  Griffin Frost, who spent time in a military prison with some of Reeves’ men, stated in his diary that Reeves was retaliating for the previous execution of a similar number of his men. Confederate Generals M. Jeff Thompson and Jo Shelby shed light on what may have been the reasons for the acquiescence to the executions by the Confederate senior command and attributed them to the burnings undertaken by Wilson’s men.  General Thompson went on to regret that the killings were not “done by such order and form that retaliation would have been avoided….  [B]ut responsibilities of this kind were not to our commander’s liking, and they were turned over to Reeves to guard, with a pretty full knowledge that they would be shot.”[8]

As General Thompson had foreseen, the Federal response was severe.  On July 30, 1863, President Lincoln had issued orders “that for every soldier of the United States killed in violation of the laws of war, a rebel soldier shall be executed.”  In this spirit and in the cycle of violence alluded to in General Thompson’s statement the U.S. command opened yet another round of reprisals that targeted captured Southern troops held in St. Louis.  “[I]f the laws of war and humanity are not sufficient to secure our prisoners from murder I will add to their force the motive of personal interest,” proclaimed Major General William S. Rosecrans.  A Union military dispatch goes on to tell the tale:  “I have to report to the commanding general that I have this day ordered the slayings of six enlisted rebel prisoners of war, in compliance with his orders to retaliate for the murder of six men of Major Wilson’s command, of the Third Cavalry Missouri State Militia, by the guerrilla, Tim Reves….  Captain Ferguson has been ordered to send a major to Colonel Darr from Independence for the same purpose.”  As Rosecrans ordered, six Confederate enlisted men were selected, taken to a public place, and shot.[9]

Capt. Griffin Frost wrote from Alton, Ill., prison:

“OCT. 28.—The six men who were placed in close confinement on the 9th of this month, were handcuffed and taken to St. Louis this morning, where, it is said they will be shot some time to-day. They are to be executed in retaliation for a Maj. Wilson and six men, who were turned over to Reeves and by him shot, in retaliation for the murder of the same number of his men. When will this thing stop? This game of lex talionis makes sad havoc upon the lives of innocent men.”

The outcry in St. Louis was very loud. Brigadier General Ewing was particularly affected having been Wilson’s commanding officer at Pilot Knob. Ewing was also aware that many of Price’s men would have treated him the same way if he had been captured for promulgating the infamous Order Number 11 that emptied the border counties of Missouri after the burning of Lawrence.[10] Ewing and his commanding officer, General William S. Rosecrans agreed that retribution needed to be made. Rosecrans issued the order for retribution as the body of Major Wilson lay in state in a church in St. Louis.[11]

None of the six condemned privates served in the 15th Missouri Cavalry nor were involved in Price’s battle at Pilot Knob. The hapless men were Harvey H. Blackburn, age 47; George T. Bunch, age unknown; Asa V. Ladd, age 34; Charles W. Minnekin, age 22; George Nichols, age 21 and James W. Gates, age 21. In many ways they were similar to the executed men of the 3rd M.S.M.

James W. Gates was a member of Company H, Captain Dickey’s 3rd Missouri Cavalry. Gates was from Cooper County.

Asa V. Ladd lived in Stoddard County. He was a member of Company A, Jackson’s, in Burbridge’s Missouri Cavalry. Ladd was a farmer and had a wife, Amy, and four children.

Charles W. Minnekin, Independence, Arkansas, was a private in Company A, Crabtree’s Cavalry Regiment.

John Nichols, Company G, 2nd Missouri Cavalry, was from western Cass County, Missouri. Nichols had faced forces containing the Tenth Kansas at Newtonia, Cane Hill and Prairie Grove in the fall of 1862. He would see them again as his executioners.

Harvey H. Blackburn was also from Independence, Arkansas. He was a private in Colonel A. Coleman’s Arkansas Cavalry.

George T. Bunch had been substituted for a teamster, John H. Furgeson. Bunch was a private in Company B, 3rd Missouri Cavalry. They were all captured during the raid.[12]

Absalom Grimes was in a cell in Gratiot St. Prison across from the condemned men the night before they were executed. He wrote:

“Never, so long as I live, will I be able to forget or cease to hear the cries and pleadings of those men after the death warrant had been read to them. Ministers and priests were allowed to visit them and during the entire night their lamentations were ceaseless.”

Asa Ladd story and his last letters to his family

The men were housed in the Gratiot Street Prison and not informed until the day slated for the execution, October 29, 1864. A Catholic priest, Father Ward, and an Episcopalian minister, Reverend Phillip McKim, attended the men in their last few hours. They baptized five of the men, and Asa Ladd, who was already baptized, wrote a heart-rending letter to his wife, Amy, and children. Reverend McKim sorrowfully added a personal note to comfort the unknowing widow.[13]

The men were taken in a covered wagon to Fort Number 4, near Lafayette Park at two o’clock on Saturday, October 29th.  Their escort was made up of men; at least one of them had faced in battle before. The Tenth Kansas Infantry had drawn this distasteful duty before. Several weeks before a firing squad of Tenth Kansas soldiers had shot a Union deserter, Barney Gibbons, to death. The Tenth Kansas had been posted in St. Louis and at the nearby Alton, Illinois, military prison since January 1864. The veteran soldiers finished out their three-year enlistment as prison guards, provost guard, and posted around St. Louis in administrative capacity. The regiment mustered out a majority of the men and officers on August 19, 1864. The same month saw the court-martial and cashiering of their Colonel, William Weer, for improprieties while in command at Alton. The remaining men were steadfast in their desire to complete their duty and they re-enlisted in the Veteran Tenth Kansas Volunteer Infantry under the temporary command of Captain William C. Jones.

The ensuing scene was filled with tension. The Saint Louis Democrat of October 30th described the events:

“On the west side of the fort six posts had been set in the ground, each with a seat attached, and each tied with a strip of white cotton cloth, afterward used in bandaging the eyes of the prisoners. Fifty-four men were selected as the executioners. Forty-four belonged to the 10th Kansas and ten to the 41st Missouri. Thirty-six of these comprised the front firing party, eighteen being reserved in case they should not do this work effectually.

About three o’clock the prisoners arrived on the ground, and sat down, attached to the posts. They all appeared to be more or less affected, but, considering the circumstances, remained remarkably firm. Father Ward and Rev. Mr. McKim spoke to the men in their last moments, exhorting them to put their trust in God. The row of posts ranged north and south, and at the first on the north was Asa V. Ladd, on his left was George Nichols; next Harvey H. Blackburn, George T. Bunch, Charles W. Minnekin, and James W. Gates. Ladd and Blackburn sat with perfect calmness, with their eyes fixed on the ground, and did not speak. Nichols shed tears, which he wiped away wit a red pocket-handkerchief, and continued to weep until his eyes were bandaged. Nichols gave no sign of emotion at first, but sat with seeming indifference, scraping the ground with his heel. He asked one of the surgeons if there was any hope of a postponement, and being assured that there was none, he looked more serious, and frequently ejaculated, “Lord, have mercy on my poor soul!” Again he said: “O, to think of the news that will go to father and mother!”

After the reading of the sentence by Col. Heinrichs, Minnekin expressed a desire to say a few words. He said:

“Soldiers, and all of you who hear me, take warning from me. I have been a Confederate soldier four years, and have served my country faithfully. I am now to be shot for what other men have done, that I had no hand in, and know nothing about. I never was a guerrilla, and I am sorry to be shot for what I had nothing to do with, and what I am not guilty of. When I took a prisoner, I always treated him kindly and never harmed a man after he surrendered. I hope God will take me to his bosom when I am dead. O, Lord, be with me!”

While the sergeant was bandaging his eyes, Minnekin, said: “Sergeant, I don’t blame you. I hope we will all meet in heaven. Boys, farewell to you all; the Lord have mercy on our poor souls!”

The firing party was about ten paces off. Some of the Kansas men appeared to be reluctant to fire upon the prisoners, but Captain Jones told them it was their duty; that they should have no hesitation, as these men had taken the life of many a Union man who was as innocent as themselves.

At the word, the thirty-six soldiers fired simultaneously, the discharge sounding like a single explosion. The aim of every man was true. One or two of the victims groaned, and Blackburn cried out: “Oh, kill me quick!” In five minutes they were all dead, their heads falling to one side, and their bodies swinging around to the sides of the posts, and being kept from falling by the pinions on their arms. Five of them were shot through the heart, and the sixth received three balls in his breast, dying almost instantly.

The execution was witness by several thousand spectators, most of them soldiers, and it was conducted in a manner highly creditable to those engaged in the performance of the disagreeable duty.

The bodies were placed in plain painted coffins, and interred by Mr. Smithers.”[14]

The Confederate major selected, Major Enoch O. Wolf, Ford’s Battalion was ordered to be shot in November 1864. Major Wolf credited his reprieve to his showing the Mason’s sign to his minister. He claimed that President Lincoln wired an order ending the execution.[15] A second telling by Brigadier General Thomas Fletcher, 47th Missouri Infantry, who had been at Pilot Knob, was slightly different.

“Eleven Confederate Majors in our hands were compelled to draw lots to determine who should be shot in retaliation for the murder of Wilson. The man so selected was in charge, for a time, of Lieut. Col. Charles S. Hills of the 10th Kansas, then on staff duty. Col. Hills became interested in him. The night before the morning fixed for his execution, Col. Hills appealed to Hon. Henry T. Blow, one of the noble-hearted, patriotic men who deservedly stood near to the great generous-hearted Lincoln. He telegraphed Mr. Lincoln and the answer came to stay the execution, and it remains stayed until this day.”[16]

Documentation, letters, diaries, or comments by the men and officers of the Tenth Kansas Infantry have never surfaced. The execution apparently affected the men to the point of wavering in their duty. The veterans would fight against Missourians at Nashville in December 1864 and at the last large land battle of the Civil War, Fort Blakely, April 9, 1865. It does seem that the Kansas grew to respect and connect more with their opponents as the war ground to a halt. During the lulls in siege at Fort Blakely, the Kansas and Missouri men would talk with each other, swap tobacco and coffee, and wish for home.


[1]“The Retaliation: The Murder of Wilson and his Comrades”, St. Louis Democrat. October 31, 1864.

[2]Idid.

[3]Suderow, Bryce A., Thunder in Arcadia Valley: Price’s Defeat, September 27, 1864. Southeast Missouri State University, 1986. pages 71-72; Peterman, Cyrus A. and Hanson, Joseph Mills, Pilot Knob: The Thermopylae of the West. Two Trails Publishing Company, 2000. pages 95-96.

[4]“Retribution: The Murder of Wilson and his Comrades”, St. Louis Democrat. October 29, 1864.

[5]Ibid.

[6]Ross, Kirby. “Atrocity at Doniphan, Missouri”. Unpublished manuscript used with permission of the author.

[7]Wilson, James Papers. Western Historical Manuscript Collection. “Testimony of Capt. Franz Dinger, the main witness concerning the battle of Pilot Knob, the capture of Maj. Wilson, and treatment after surrender, taken in St. Louis on October 30, 1864.”

[8] Ross, Atrocity at Doniphan; Donal J. Stanton, Goodwin F. Berquist, and Paul C. Bowers, The Civil War Reminiscences of General M. Jeff Thompson (Dayton, OH.: Morningside 1988) 294; General Joseph Shelby correspondence to Major C.C. Rainwater read before the Southern Historical Association, Ewing Family Papers, Box 213; Letter from Gen. J.O. Shelby, CSA to Maj. C.C. Rainwater, Jan. 5, 1888, Cyrus Peterson Battle of Pilot Knob Research Collection, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, MO.  See also, Griffin Frost, Camp and Prison Journal (Quincy, Ill.: Quincy Herald Book and Job Office 1867).

[9] Ross; Roy P. Basler (ed.), The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 9 vols. (New Brunswick, New Jersey: 1953, VI: p. 357; General Order No. 252, Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol. XXXIII, pp. 866-867; Official Records, Ser. 1, Vol. XLI, Pt. 4, p. 316; Official Records, Ser. 2, Vol. VI, p. 163; Official Records, Ser. 2, Vol. VII, pp. 1118-1119

[10]Thunder in Arcadia Valley, page 151, pages 35 – 36.

[11]“Retribution”

[12]Ibid. “The Retaliation”.

[13]“The Retaliation”.

[14]St. Louis Democrat. “A Military Execution: Shooting of Six Rebel Soldiers”. October 30, 1863.

[15]Bartels, Carolyn. The Last-Long Mile: Westport to Arkansas October 1864. Two Trails Publishing, 1999. pages 115 – 120.

[16]“The Asa Ladd Story”. Ladd Digging Ground. http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~ladd/asa.htm.

Paradox of Captain George D Brooke

True Tales of the Tenth Kansas Infantry:

The Paradox of Captain George D. Brooke

by Howard Mann

In August 1864 the Tenth Kansas underwent a dramatic transformation. Having served for three years, two in the field and the last parceled throughout St. Louis and Alton as prison guards, it is small wonder that the stresses and strains of service told on officers and men, alike. A more difficult period in the life of the regiment could not be imagined. Colonel William Weer went past the boundaries of testing the authorities above and managed to divide the regiment’s loyalties over his conduct at Alton Military prison. The resulting court martial caused Weer to be stripped of his rank and cashiered from duty. Two other incidents revealed two different perspectives of another long time Tenth Kansas officer, Captain George D. Brooke.

Captain Brooke was a mainstay of the regiment having enlisted as First Lieutenant of Company A, Third Kansas Volunteers and quickly being promoted to the head of his company since upon transfer to the Tenth Kansas, Company C. Captain Brooke was 42 years old in 1864 and while enlisting from Kansas City, had family in Lawrence, Kansas.

When the Tenth Kansas Infantry arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in January 1864, the veterans were needed as prison guards at the military prison in Alton, Illinois across the Mississippi River. Some companies served on additional details as many of the officers were moved to staff positions with Major General Rosecrans or Brigadier General Thomas Ewing, Jr. in St. Louis. Two secondary posts for the Tenth Kansas were as guards of St. Louis’s Gratiot Street Prison and the lesser Myrtle Street prison.

Originally known as Lynch’s Slave Pen, the Myrtle Street Prison stood two blocks from the St. Louis courthouse on Myrtle and Fifth street (Broadway and Clark Streets today). Also known as the “Hotel de Lynch” the structure consisted of a two and one-half story brick building. Built to hold slaves by an enterprising dealer, the pen was naturally designed to contain prisoners with barred windows and locks and bolts for chains. The prison capacity was one hundred with an additional overseer’s quarters upstairs. In September 1861 twenty-seven prisoners were moved into the slave pen for the first time. By May 1862 Myrtle Street Prison was abandoned in favor of the more spacious Gratiot Street Prison. Due to overcrowding, however, Myrtle Street Prison was again put into service on November 5, 1862, receiving 150 of the overcrowded Gratiot Street prisoners. By September 1864, the Provost Marshal reported about Myrtle Street Prison, “This old negro stall [Myrtle] is a nuisance in every respect and will not do for the coming winter.” This was not a pleasant post for any officer.

Captain Brooke was first posted to replace another Tenth Kansas officer, Captain Samuel J. Stewart on July 12, 1864.

Captain Brooke seemed to be everywhere at once when an escape attempt quickly occurred. The August 15, 1864 edition of the St. Louis Democrat reported the following humorous story.

“Several days ago, Captain Brooks, company C, 10th Kansas Infantry, keeper of Myrtle street military prison, received information that several of his prisoners were engaged in an attempt to escape. He therefore, kept a close watch on the movements of his prisoners, and posted his sentinels in such positions that escape from the building would be next to impossible. He had instructed the officer of the guard every night to place the most trustworthy men on post at the prison, and had cautioned the sentinels to be on the look-out for an attempt on the part of the prisoners to escape. On Saturday night Lieutenant Charles T. Knoll, of the 10th E.M.M., was officer of the guard, and is entitled to great credit for his vigilance.

Love, which “laughs at locksmiths,” pulls the wool over the eyes of philosophers, and makes a fool of the wisest sage, was at the bottom of this affair; but as

“The course of true love never did run smooth,”

So in this case it ran against the rough edge of Lieutenant Knoll’s sentinels, and came to grief. No one, in looking at the uninviting exterior of the Myrtle street prison, would suppose that its walls were calculated for a nursery of the tender passion, or that they confined a fair Cleopatra whose fascinations could tempt Anthony to lay a world at her feet; but appearances are often deceitful, and Myrtle prison has its romance as well as the French bastille and the Italian dungeons.

See more on Annie Fickle in the Gratiot Women and Children’s prisoner list and corresponding Prisoner Notes

Our readers may remember reading in the Democrat, several months ago, an account of the killing of the guerrilla chief, James Blunt, in Lafayette county, and the arrest of his betrothed, Miss Annie Fickle. This young lady, who is said to be something of a beauty, high spirited, about 23 years of age, and a rank rebel at heart, was confined in a room, in the prison, with five other female prisoners. Her deportment during her confinement has been decorous and lady-like, and she has been treated with as much indulgence as the prison rules will allow.

Charles Warner, of the 1st Nebraska, also a prisoner, saw Annie and fell desperately in love with her. Whether his passion was reciprocated, the lady can alone tell; but it seems that she encouraged his attentions, for several reasons. He had been promoted to the position of head cook for the prison guard, and had conducted himself so well that Captain Brooks had the utmost confidence in him, and did not suppose that he had any desire to escape, as several opportunities had been presented which he manifested no disposition to take advantage of. A short time ago he had got out of the prison and spent a night in the city, but returned the next day. Warner had been sentenced to twelve month’s confinement for leaving his post and carrying whiskey to prisoners, and three-fourths of his time had expired. Annie was doomed to remain in duress for a longer period, and Warner determined to steal her – fly with her to some remote land – make her his own – settle down to the cultivation of turnips, cabbages and children, and become a worthy citizen.

To carry out his plan, he let six of his fellow prisoners into this secret, and obtained their assistance in burrowing out of the prison. A piece of file and an old iron poker were obtained, and about a week ago the party went to work with these simple tools. Beginning at the corner of the kitchen, in the eastern part of prison, they succeeded in making an opening under the floor, and through two brick walls east and north of the kitchen. But one wall remained to be cut through, and they had worked about a dozen bricks out of this and made a small opening, when at half-past two o’clock yesterday morning the sentinel posted immediately over the place descried them and gave the alarm. Captain Brooks called up Sergeant Issac T. Swart, company A, 10th Kansas, and Sergeant James R. Kennedy, company I, same regiment, and hurried to the place. On seeing the opening in the wall, Sergeant Swart plunged in like a bull-dog after a badger, and confronted the fugitives. They were waiting eagerly for the last wall to be cut through, and felt confident that in a few moments they would be at liberty. Annie was in front, and Warner sat with his back against the opening, which had been made. The party were conducted to the “Ice-box,” and in future will not be allowed as many privileges as heretofore. The following are the prisoners who accompanied Warner in his expedition:

John C. Eates, 25th Missouri, has been ten months in prison, and was recently tried by court-martial, but his sentence has not been promulgated.

John Williams, 30th M.S.M., committed April 11, 1864, and tried a few days ago for deserting five times; sentence not promulgated.

James and John Berry, brothers, the first a lieutenant, the other a sergeant in company D, 14th Kansas; committed April 12, 1864, and not yet tried. They are charged with murder, desertion, and about all the other offenses known to military law.

David Best, 9th M.S.M.; sentenced to confinement at hard labor for six months; sent from St. Joseph.

David Mills, 1st Iowa; committed July 15, 1864, and under sentence to be shot September 2nd, for desertion. Mills had been shackled with ball and chain, which he had managed to unfasten. When Captain Brooks asked him how they got off, he said they “dropped off,” and the Captain fastened them on him again, and said, “When you get these off again, let me know.” “Yes, Captain,” said Mills, “I’ll come right in and let you know.”

Warner, the cook, who had periled his life in attempting to rescue Annie Fickle, appeared greatly mortified at his failure. He had but little to say, however, on the subject, but will, no doubt, recover from his love fit long before his charmer regains the light of liberty.”

Captain Brooke’s diligence did not remain unassailable for long. He inherited a substantial problem in the structure of the old building, the overcrowded conditions and with the ingenuity of his prisoners. His selection as commanding officer of the prison was predicated on an existing problem as noted by the Provost Marshal. In a communiqué on July 9, 1864 it was noted that “an officer of more dignity and self respect should be appointed.” Captain Stewart was observed as “on too intimate terms with prisoners, eating and sleeping with Lieutenant Hines & Major Coats.” Since Brooke was consumed by his vigilance for more dramatic escapes, he was not as prepared for Lieutenant Hines to simply walk away.

The story unfolded on September 12, 1864 with a short note from Captain Brooke to Colonel J. P. Sanderson, Provost Marshal General:

“Sir:

I have to inform you of the escape from confinement at this prison of Lieut. H. H. Hine. From all that I can learn, it was about one o’clock this morning. Sergt. Stewart saw him returning from the privy about that hour. Sergt. Deitz who was on watch for the night, informs me that he made his rounds outside of the prison at about one o’clock and the presumption is that he (Hine) pass’d the Sentinel at the door, during the time that the Sergt. on watch was out, and escaped.”

While the facts started out simple, they were quickly complicated by more complex circumstances. A second note, the same day, recognized that it was there was inside assistance.

“Sir,

Since I forwarded the written report of the escape of Lieut. Hine to your office, Sergt. Deitz, who was on watch during the night, has owned up that he permitted him to go under the pretense of getting some money promising to return in two hours time. I was about to send Sergt. Deitz after the Sentinel, who was on post at the door at the time Hine, was supposed to have escaped, and he concluded to make a clean breast of it and acknowledge his complicity with the affair. I at once placed him under arrest, and will prefer charges against him.”

Possibly realizing that he might be held accountable for this perplexing situation, Brooke wrote again on September 14 to Colonel James Darr, Assistant Provost Marshal:

“Sir,

I have the honor as directed by you this day to forward to your office, a list of the employees in this Prison Office, as follows.

Sergt. J. H. Stewart, Clerk, Corpl. Elijah Strosnider, Prison Keeper, Sergt. Wm. F. Waggoner, Commissary Sergt.

I would further state that when I took command of this Prison I found G. J. Ham and Maj. Coats, both prisoners, employed to a certain extent in the Office. Ham as Clerk and Coats in charge of the Medicine and the Ice Box and was informed by my predecessor, Capt. Stewart, that they were there with the approbation and wish of Capt. Burdett. I therefore permitted them to remain. Today I received instructions from Maj. Williams not to allow it, unless authorized by competent authority. I therefore removed them at once.”

Whether politically motivated, as many court-martial cases were, or through an earnest desire to uncover the truth, the Provost Marshal and his assistant quickly filed charges against Captain Brooke through Major Lucien Eaton, Judge Advocate under Special Orders #22 for a General Court-martial on September 28, 1864. The trial was held on October 11, 1864 at 10 o’clock at the Southeast corner of 5th and Pine streets, Room number 5, 3rd Floor. Brigadier General Solomon Meredith presides as President of the court-martial. The witness list expanded to soldiers and civilians. In the charges and specifications Captain Brooke was accused of extending privileges to certain prisoners at Mrytle Street Prison that allowed for the escape to occur.

The official charge is “Neglect of duty to the prejudice of good order and military discipline.” The specification concerns the “permitting sundry prisoners there confined as well as other persons, unlawful ingress and egress from and into said prison.”

The trial centered around Captain Brooke’s knowledge of three “privileged” prisoners, Lt. H. H. Hine, 2nd Colorado Cavalry, Lt. G. J. Ham, and Major Coats, who all occupied the upper room and held unofficial duties under several regimes of prison commanders. It was quickly established that the enlisted men did not know that the three were even prisoners, but poorly dressed officers of the prison. Since none of the men were Confederates, this is plausible. While the sergeants, who shared an extra upper room with the prisoners, knew they were incarcerated, they may have thought they had additional privileges from the other prisoners.

Captain Brooke protested his innocence in a forthright, factual manner. The second witness, Charles Y. Mason was a prisoner, possibly with an ax to grind. His diatribe revealed that the prison was rampant with illicit activities. He stated that Hine was frequently escorted to houses of “ill-fame” by prison guards and that prisoners could get whiskey. He accused Brooke of being lax in both of these areas as well as allowing prisoners to mix with the few female prisoners kept in a separate room. The trial quickly moved to interrogations of women that had visited Lieutenant Hine at Myrtle Street. With a Victorian purient interest, the prosecutor questioned Mary Chapman, a widow who was obviously a prostitute. Chapman established that she had an ongoing relationship with Lt. Hine since 1861. When asked, “What was the nature of these calls” (by Lt. Hines), she replied, “Friendly Calls.” Mary Chapman also noted visiting other prisoners who had escaped in the past and that Union guards accompanied many. A laundress, Mary Wood, was more evasive, swearing that she had picked up Hine’s laundry at the prison and nothing more. A washerwoman, Dora Gray and her daughter, Sarah Jane McDermott, 14, were even more mysterious. Sarah revealed that she occasionally acted as a go between, but would only acknowledge she had taken a basket of food to Lt. Hine at the prison. The women were unshaken in their affirmation of lack of knowledge.

The seemingly guilty Sergeant Deitz, Company B, 10th Kansas, who was arrested on September 11, 1864 for allowing the escape, made it clear that he believed that Hine would return after acquiring money. He noted that Privates Benton Baily, Company B, 6th Missouri Cavalry and John C. Pierce, Company D, 6th Missouri Cavalry, both prison guards thought Hine was an officer of the prison. Sergeant James H. Stewart, Company D, 10th Kansas Infantry, explained how he and Corporal Elijah Strosnider, Prison Keeper, examined packages and letters of the prisoners and noted nothing unusual. While he firmly believed that Deitz purposefully let Hine escape, Stewart was surprised and defended Deitz’s motives and Brooke’s professionalism.

While others were named as witnesses, such as Colonel Sanderson, Provost Marshal, they either did not appear or claimed illness. No one wanted to accept responsibility nor blame. The court accepted Captain Brooke’s story, as well as the arrest of Sergeant Deitz as a final farewell to Lieutenant Henry. H. Hine. The guilty party in the escape was the lack of communication between officers and staff, the fraternization between Union soldiers and Union prisoners, and the building, itself, which did not easily accommodate overcrowding. Captain Brooke was, at most, admonished but not removed from office. Captain George D. Brooke remained with the regiment until June 16, 1865 having been a good officer, even commanding the regiment at one point. Private Lewis A. Deitz from Ogden, Kansas, mustered out with the regiment on August 30, 1865. James H. Stewart, Sergeant, mustered out shortly after the incident, in October 1864. Lieutenant Henry H. Hine, Second Colorado Cavalry disappeared from the scene.

Robert Payne Byrd by Kenneth Byrd

Robert Payne Byrd

by Kenneth Byrd

During the 1850 Federal census taken for District No. 8, Stewart County, TN, Robert Payne Byrd was still living at home with his parents and sisters. His older brother, William Carroll Byrd, had left for Wayne County, MO by that time. Sometime between the 1850 census and his marriage to Mary Catherine Callaway in Arcadia, Iron County, MO on September 25, 1857, Robert Payne Byrd had moved to Missouri. His older brother, William Carroll, lived close-by, near Brunot in Wayne (later Iron) County.

Sometime after his marriage, Robert Payne Byrd moved to Fredericktown, in Liberty Township of Madison County, MO; he and his wife Catherine were listed as living here in the Federal census taken on June 14, 1860 (page 55, dwelling #400, family #400). Interestingly, he apparently gave his place of birth as Kentucky rather than the correct Tennessee. His older brother William Carroll Byrd, living near Brunot in now Iron County, MO also gave his place of birth as Kentucky in the 1860 census — perhaps a reflection of the increasing tensions between the Federal government and traditional slave states during this time?

Tensions increased as war broke out between North and South; Missouri became the focus of both Confederate and Federal efforts to consolidate their respective territories. An early battle in Missouri occurred at Fredericktown, in Madison County, MO on October 21, 1861 between Missouri State Guards forces led by Brigadier General M. Jeff Thompson and Federal soldiers directed by Colonel Joseph B. Plummer (under overall command of new Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant stationed in Cairo, Illinois). After the battle, Federal soldiers — led by the 1st Indiana Cavalry — angry at not having been warned by locals in Fredericktown about the ambush successfully executed against them that day, took out their anger on the civilian populace and burned about 12 houses. In addition, all stores in Fredericktown were looted and damaged by rampaging Federal soldiers. Local Negroes, both slave and freemen, were taken away by the vindictive Yankees. What actual impact all of this had on Robert Payne and Catherine Byrd is currently not known; they were undoubtedly aware that Payne’s older brother, William Carroll Byrd, had lost all of his livestock to foraging Federal soldiers sent to Brunot during August, 1861 by then Colonel U.S. Grant in order to punish Southern sympathizers.

Another critical factor in Payne deciding to join the Confederate Army may have been the implementation of a series of General Orders by the Federal commanders in Missouri: in June of 1862, General John M. Schofield ordered that a fine of $5,000 be levied on Southern sympathizers for every Federal soldier or pro-Union citizen killed in their vicinity. Then, on July 22, 1862, General Schofield issued General Order No. 19 which ordered all able-bodied Missourians to report for service in the Federal army within six days — thus effectively forcing any neutral Missourians to choose between the Union and the Confederacy. All the above were possible influences on Robert Payne Byrd and his subsequent actions described below.

Apparently Robert Payne and Catherine Byrd owned property in the town of Ironton, Iron County, MO as indicated by an Iron County land deed dated July 14, 1862. As recorded in this deed, Payne and Catherine Byrd sold lot No. 5 in block No. 38 of Ironton to a certain Jacob Howel (sic) for the amount of $50. Shortly after that, Robert Payne Byrd traveled south from Ironton to Oregon County, MO where, according to his CSA service records, he was enlisted in Company F of Colonel James White’s 3rd (later 9th) Missouri Infantry, CSA on August 2, 1862 by T.H. Turner. This enlistment may have taken place at CSA Camp Brewer in Oregon County under the aegis of the following members of Co. F: Captain Thomas Lashley, 1st Lieutenant Daniel Lorenius (Lanius?), 2nd Lieutenant John M Pease, and 3rd Lieutenant Abner Hancock — this info from the CSA pension of Pvt. Richard Callison described below.

According to Jerry Ponder, the author of The 9th Missouri Infantry Regiment, C.S.A. and the 12th Missouri Infantry Regiment, C.S.A. (1996), recruitment likely occurred at headquarters established at Fort Currentview on the Missouri – Arkansas border at Pitman Ferry. Again according to Jerry Ponder, a confusing situation arose when Lieutenant-Colonel Willis M. Ponder resigned from White’s 3rd/9th Missouri Infantry during March, 1862 and formed another regiment of his own during July of 1862 — it appears likely that Robert Payne Byrd was in this unit, also called the 9th Missouri Infantry, commanded by Willis M. Ponder. Active training and drills took place at Camp Shaver, near Pocahontas, Randolph County, Arkansas. Ponder’s 9th Missouri Infantry then moved to Izard County, Arkansas during September, 1862 for additional training. During reorganization at Yellville, Arkansas on November 14, 1862, Ponder’s 9th Missouri Infantry was redesignated the 12th Missouri Infantry, C.S.A. A composite muster roll for this unit given by Jerry Ponder (1996) lists Private R.P. Byrd in Co. F, Ponder’s 12th Missouri Infantry; in the same company is listed Captain D.J. Lanius and Privates Richardson Collison (sic) and Jacob Howell — probably the same person who bought the lot in Ironton from Payne and Catherine Byrd. Pvt.

Robert Payne Byrd, Co. F, White’s 9th and/or Ponder’s 12th Missouri Infantry may have participated in the bloody Battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas on December 7, 1862 — his Confederate service records are not clear on this account. It is known, however, that one of the men listed as belonging to his Company F, Pvt. Richard Callison, was badly wounded on that day according to his Missouri State Confederate Pension documents: “I received a gunshot wound in the battle of Prairie Grove, Ark……in my left arm between the wrist and elbow, which fractured one of the bones of my forearm.” Don Montgomery’s history of the Battle of Prairie Grove (1996) describes Lieutenant-Colonel Willis Ponder’s 9th Missouri Infantry as part of Parson’s Brigade in Major-General Thomas C. Hindman’s Army of the Trans-Mississippi. Brigadier General Mosby M. Parson’s brigade was within the 3rd Division of the Army of the Trans-Mississippi, commanded by Brigadier General Daniel M. Frost. On December 7, 1862, Ponder’s 9th Missouri Infantry had approximately 476 men, armed with an assortment of different rifled and smooth-bore muskets.

Parson’s Brigade was deployed between Roane’s and Shaver’s Brigades on the western end of the Prairie Grove battlefield to counter the attack of Federal Brigadier General James G. Blunt; this onslaught began at approximately 3:00 p.m. in the vicinity of the Morton House. The 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th Missouri Infantries in Parson’s Brigade met the Federals head-on and not only stopped their advance, but pushed them down the hill into the hayfield below. Federal artillery support proved the difference as the shattered Rebel lines withdrew back to the wooded hill crest they came from. Wounded men from both sides who had crawled inside haystacks were burnt alive by shells that had been fired into them. Michael Banasik, in his book Embattled Arkansas, the Prairie Grove Campaign of 1862 (1996), describes Ponder’s 9th Missouri Infantry, along with Steen’s and Pindall’s men, charging across Morton’s hayfield towards the Yankee artillery thusly: “….twelve guns, double shotted with grape and canister, swept great holes through the Rebel column. Parsons’ men staggered back like drunken men, then rallied and pushed on again. The Federal cannons fired. They belched forth death and destruction to their compact ranks a second time. Again they wavered, but only for a moment. Men mad with powdered whiskey and the sight of blood filled the depleted ranks and came on again. Again the command “Fire!” Steen’s men would not stop, but Ponder’s command faltered.”

GratiotNot only was Pvt. Robert Payne Byrd’s comrade, Pvt. Richard Callison, likely wounded at this time, but also Co. F’s Captain Thomas Lashley; Captain Lashley later died of his wounds at Little Rock, AR on January 20, 1863. Confederate casualties at the battle of Prairie Grove, December 7, 1862 have been estimated at 204 killed, 872 wounded, and 407 missing (total of 1,483); Federal casualties were 175 killed, 808 wounded, and 250 missing (total of 1,233). Both sides described hungry pigs devouring the dead and not-yet dead/wounded on the battlefield after the guns ceased firing. If actually present that day, Pvt. Robert Payne Byrd was one of the fortunate participants. Sometime after the battle of Prairie Grove, Payne Byrd apparently went AWOL, and according to his CSA service record, was captured by Federal soldiers somewhere in Oregon County, MO on January 28, 1863. His service records also state that he was then sent to Gratiot Street Prison in St. Louis, MO, from West Plains, Howell County, MO on February 3, 1863. He arrived in St. Louis and was received at Gratiot Prison on February 8, 1863. On February 11, 1863, Pvt. Robert Payne Byrd was “examined” by Federal Colonel (?) M.V.G. Strong and a Captain A. Olsen (?) there at Gratiot Prison as a POW. This interrogation document is on microfilm at the National Archives and reads as follows:

NOTE: underlined italics denote handwriting.

R.P. Byrd
Madison Co.
Gratiot
“Pr of War”
Pri. Miss. Reg. CSA
Febr 2
Pris of War for Exchange
D.
April 14 (unintelligible)
Sent to Washington
Aprl 2/13 (?)
Exd Feb 11, 1863
M.V.G. Strong Capt (unintelligible)
“Pr of War”
Not willing to be exchanged.

Examination of R.P. Byrd of Madison County, Missouri.
Taken the 11th day of February, 1863.
Confined at Gratiot Street Prison.
Taken by M.V.G. Strong (signature in his apparent handwriting)
Capt. A.A. Olsen (?) (signature in his apparent handwriting)

Statement of R.P. Byrd, a Prisoner at the Gratiot Street Prison, St. Louis, made the 11th day of February, 1863.

My age is 30 years.
I live in Madison County, Missouri.
I was born in Calaway County.
I was captured in Oregon County on or about the 29th day of January, 1863.
The cause of my surrendering had been with Col. White, Hindman’s command. I joined him voluntarily (sic).
I was in arms against the United States, and was a [rank] Private in Capt. Ashley’s* Company, White’s Regiment. I was (blank space here) sworn into the Rebel service about the 6th day of July, 1862 by D. Lanius in Oregon County, Missouri for 3 years or during the War.

When surrendered, I was first taken to West Plains and remained there 5 days. Houston and Rolla 1 day and was not examined there by (blank space here) and was sent to Gratiot Prison about the 3 day of February, 1863.

I never took the oath of allegiance to the United States, about the (blank space here) day of (blank space here) 186 (blank space here).

Subscribed by the Prisoner, the day first named, in my presence.

Payne Byrd (signature in his apparent handwriting)
M.V.G. Strong (signature in his apparent handwriting)
Capt. (unintelligible) (signature in his apparent handwriting)

{*KEB note: probably Captain Lashley as per Richard Callison MO CSA pension documents}

The Prisoner makes additional statements as follows, in answer to questions:

1. How many times have you been in arms during the rebellion?
Once.
2. What commanders have you served under?
Col. White.
3. What battles or skirmishes have you been in?
None.
4. Did you have arms, or were you out on picket, or what part did you take in the action?
Gun. Been on Picket duty once.
5. Have you ever furnished arms, or ammunition, horse, provisions, or any kind of supplies to any rebels? State when, where and how often.
No.
6. Was there any rebel camp near you, that you did not give notice of to the U.S. troops?
No.
7. Have you ever been with any one taking or pressing horses, arms, or other property?
No.
8. Are you enrolled in the E.M.M. — loyal or disloyal?
No.
9. Are you a southern sympathiser?
I am not. (first answer of “Not as much as I was.” crossed out)
10. Do you sincerely desire to have the southern people put down in this war, and the authority of the U.S. Government over them restored?
Yes, I do.
11. How many slaves have you?
None.
12. Have you a wife — how many children.
Yes. None.
13. What is your occupation?
Carpenter.
14. What relatives have you in the rebellion?
None that I know of.
15. Have you ever been in any Rebel camp? If so, whose — when — where — and how long? What did you do? Did you leave it, or were you captured in it?
Yes. White’s. July 1862. Different Places. Seven months. Soldier. I left it, became disatisfied (sic) with the laws of the Southern Confederacy. I do not want to be exchanged. Willing to take the Oath, & give a Bond for $1000. Not willing to enroll.

Payne Byrd (signature in his apparent handwriting)

At least some of Pvt. Robert Payne Byrd’s answers in the examination document above are likely examples of what Michael Fellman, author of Inside War, the Guerrilla Conflict in Missouri During the American Civil War (1989), describes as “survival lies” that were used on both sides during the chaos in Missouri between 1861-1865. Payne may have been telling his interrogators what he thought they wanted to hear with hopefully no punishment meted out to him for his answers. His crossed out “Not as much as I was” answer to question No. 9 above suggests there was indeed some coercion by his Federal captors. His answer of being born in Callaway County may have been an attempt to shield his parents back in Stewart County, TN which was then actively occupied by Federal troops stationed nearby at both Ft. Henry and Ft. Donelson. Similarly, he may have been trying to protect his older brother, Pvt. George Wesley Byrd who had served in Co. B (Taylor’s) of the 1st Tennessee Artillery, CSA at Ft. Henry on February 6, 1862.

Another possibility for the place Byrd was sent when he contracted small pox is given in The Encyclopedia of the History of St. Louis (1899), which says:

The quarantine establishment answers as a quarantine and small-pox hospital, and is located on a tract of land of about fifty-four acres, which tract is on the west bank of the Mississippi River, about one and one-half miles below Jefferson Barracks. It was purchased by the city in 1856 for a quarantine ground… At the extreme west end of these grounds is a cemetery which was used up to 1877 as a burial place for the pauper dead of the city and the patients who died in the hospital on the grounds.–D. H. Rule

The last notation on his CSA service records states that Pvt. Robert P. Boyd (sic), Co. F, White’s Regt. appears on a monthly report of Gratiot Prison from March 1 to 31, 1863. The last notation reads: “Where captured — Oregon Co. MO. When captured — Jan. 28, 1863. Received — Feb. 8, 1863. Discharged — Mar. 6, 1863. Remarks — Small Pox Hospital.” As best as can be determined at the time of this writing, Payne Byrd contracted smallpox and was removed to the so-called Small Pox Island (McPike’s Island) in the middle of the Mississippi River and offshore from the Alton, Illinois POW camp. It is assumed he died there and was buried in a mass grave with other CSA POWs who died from smallpox at that time. No records yet found indicate exactly when he died or where. Interestingly, the Bible belonging to his father, John Wesley “Jack” Byrd, back in Stewart Co. TN records his death as being on April 7, 1864. The exact date and place of Pvt. Robert Payne Byrd’s death is still unknown to any of his current relatives.

May 12, 1998 – by Kenneth E. Byrd, Indianapolis, IN

For more of Robert Payne Byrd’s story, genealogy, and family history information visit this webpage