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.

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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.