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Chapter 19:

  • The enemy burn the Court House and Academy at Carthage
  • -- County records carried away in Missouri -- rebel guerillas near Fort Scott -- rebel women carry information to the; enemy -- cholera and small-pox at Fort Gibson -- probable cause of cholera breaking out -- a soldier killed by Captain Tough -- a little too much drunkenness -- Major Blair closes the whisky shops -- resisting the draft -- great riot in New York City -- remarks on neutrality -- arrival of Colonel Phillips from the front -- the supply train starts to Fort Gibson -- recruiting of the Fourteenth Kansas cavalry -- large bounties paid by the government for recruits -- State bounties in some of the States -- skirmish between several squadrons of Federal troops through mistake -- skirmish with guerillas near Balltown -- appeal of the rebel government for more troops -- Description of the country around Fort Scott -- recruiting colored troops.

A small detachment of our soldiers who have just; come up from Carthage, sixty miles southeast of this place, state that rebel bands are collecting in considerable force in Jasper County, under Colonel Craven, who formerly lived in that section; and that there is; a fair prospect of a fight between them and the militia in a few days. They have recently burned the court house, and a fine brick academy at Carthage, to keep our troops from using them as a means of defense, [364] as they used the brick building at Stockton not long since, when the rebel Chieftain Livingston was killed. The guerillas of Missouri know that court houses and strong buildings can be of very little benefit to them in the way of defenses, and that our troops are always delighted to get them in such places. They would not likely make much of an effort to dislodge them with small arms, but would probably try to hold them, until a section of a battery could be brought from the nearest post to play upon them. A few shells thrown into a building, should they take refuge in one, would soon start them out. From what I have seen on several occasions, I think they would prefer to run the gauntlet of small arms, than to have shells bursting around their heads in a court house hall. But burning such buildings in the towns, as would answer the purpose of quartering a company ,of troops, may be of some advantage to the enemy, while he is determined to keep up a guerilla warfare. In the burning of county property, which has been done in a good many instances, the enemy have not often destroyed county records, for most of such records were carried away or concealed by the rebels --when General Price's forces were driven out of Missouri in February, 1862. As a general thing, perhaps, both parties feel an interest in preventing the destruction of county records. Unless the county records can be restored after the war, a good deal of confusion is likely to arise in regard to the titles to property. Those owning real estate in Missouri, cannot but feel [365] some anxiety in regard to the matter. Though it may be that the General Land Officer will show to whom any given piece of property was conveyed by the government, it will not show the title of the present owner to such property if it has been sold by the original purchaser from the government.

The enemy are getting quite bold in this vicinity of late. A party of guerrillas, under Captain Taylor, crossed the line on the night of the 24th, and came within about two miles of this post, and robbed several families. Major Blair, who is kept quite busy in fitting out trains to carry supplies to our troops in the Indian country, is also obliged to be constantly on the alert in looking after the guerrillas in this section.. If our troops become a little inactive along the border, the enemy soon finds it out and commences committing depredations. The commanding officer at the post should have a sufficient cavalry force at his disposal to send out two detachments every day, to the east, the southeast and the northeast of this place, say twenty-five or thirty miles. But even such a measure would not absolutely stop their depredations and raids into Kansas, for they generally stop during the day at some isolated and lonely spot where our troops are not likely to find them. If they return to their retreats by separate paths and byways, they need not make a trail that could be easily followed by our troops. Rebel families from Vernon county, Missouri, come in here every day to trade with our merchants, and, no doubt, easily get such information in regard to our [366] movements as to keep the enemy well advised. I made some inquiries for my own satisfaction in relation to this matter, and I found that almost every day there are women of questionable loyalty, coming in here from Vernon and Barton counties, Missouri sometimes, too, from a distance of twenty-five or thirty miles. They generally claimed to have passes, and I presume they did, having got some one to vouch for them, so that they come and go undisturbed. They may purchase not only articles for domestic use, but also ammunition for the enemy. My own idea is that we should be more vigilant in such things. Loyal men, no doubt, often thoughtlessly vouch for parties whom they should not. It would not be pleasant to know that we have been furnishing the enemy with the means for our own destruction. Yet there is reason to believe that we have sometimes done it.

A detachment of cavalry just up from Fort Gibson, report that the cholera has broken out among the troops at that post, and that quite a number have already died from that dreadful disease. General Blunt is also on the sick list. It can hardly be what is known as the Asiatic cholera, for that type of cholera generally appears in the east and travels westward. When we were on short rations at Fort Gibson last month, I suggested that there was some danger of constitutional disturbances following our radical change of food. Of course, I had not the slightest idea what form the constitutional disturbance would likely take. By inquiry I ascertained that the men [367] did not relish their food; and I felt sure, too, that it was not making good healthy blood, without which no one can display prolonged activity, nor long retain good health. From the 22d of June to the 4th of July, nearly all the white men belonging to the garrison force at Fort Gibson, lost from one to several pounds of flesh. Nor is this all. At the end of our fast, nearly everyone had sustained a loss of energy and buoyancy. Even after we commenced to issue full rations, the loss of power was not immediately restored to the men. It may be that the digestive and assimilative organs became enfeebled with the rest of the system. This, however, is a question which the medical profession should be most competent to decide. After the system becomes deteriorated by poor food, it must, of necessity, take some time to build up good healthy tissues, even when nutritious food has been supplied to the stomach and alimentary system.

The small-pox, also, when we recently left Fort Gibson, was still afflicting our troops there-particularly the Indians. Since I referred to this disease last March, we have lost a good many Indian soldiers by it. But the greatest mortality caused by it has been among refugee Indian families. Though my bump of curiosity has taken me around to notice everything I could think of, it never took me to the small-pox hospital. Considering the heterogeneous mass of humanity we had together last winter, we are, perhaps, fortunate that we were no worse afflicted during the spring and summer, and no doubt [368] would have been, were it not for the vigilant eye of Colonel Phillips.

On the 28th, W. S. Tough, Captain and Chief of Scouts, shot and killed a soldier on the street. It seems that the soldier was drunk and making some demonstration which led Tough to believe that he was endeavoring to draw his pistol. From what I can find out about the matter, however, I think it would have been much more creditable to Captain Tough to have turned his pistol against the enemy. Why a Captain of civilian scouts should be one hundred and fifty miles from the front is unaccountable to me anyway. Nor have I heard of him being with us any time during the spring or summer. We have noticed more drunkenness among the soldiers since we came here two weeks ago, than during the six months in Colonel Phillips' division. In fact, a drunken soldier, white or Indian, was a rare sight. Major Blair, the Post commander, is going to issue an order shortly, closing up those whisky shops that sell intoxicating liquors to soldiers. It would be a great blessing, not only to many families, but to many inebriates themselves, if some effective measures could be adopted to check the evil. The evils likely to arise from the use of intoxicating liquors, should be pointed out in the moral teaching of the head of every family as clearly and forcibly as possible. But there will be legislative tinkering on the subject of prohibition for generations yet.

The enforcing of the draft is beginning to cause a good deal of excitement in the eastern cities, and has [369] already resulted in a great rot in New York city, where hundreds of men have been either killed, beaten or bruised. To my mind, men who will risk their lives in resisting the draft rather than enlist in the service of the Government at this time, cannot be counted on much for their loyalty. That there should be so many traitors to the Government in the North, is really surprising. Every leader who advises resisting the draft, should be either hung or banished beyond our lines. The Government must either act firmly or surrender to the enemy. It cannot afford to trifle with the foe at home any more than at the front. Everybody now is either friend or foe of the Government. There is no half-way ground; and anyone pretending to be neutral is endeavoring to hide his disloyalty behind that term. It would be much more honorable for them to come out and avow their disloyalty. These very men, too, who wish to be neutral, if they are assaulted or robbed, are as quick to appeal to the Government for protection or relief, as the staunchest supporter of the Union cause. But if they are really neutral what right have they to ask the Government for protection of life or property In the first place, the Government cannot recognize the right of any one to remain neutral in a life or death struggle like the present. Those who believe that the Government is worth preserving, should willingly risk their lines in its defense; that is, if they are not too cowardly to shoulder the musket. It would doubtless be safe to predict that many of those now [370] claiming to be neutral, and who have had, or may yet have supplies taken from them by our army, will ask the Government to pay for such supplies after the war. As there is not the remotest probability of the Government paying the enemy for supplies taken from them I don't see how it can pay the neutrals for supplies taken from them, since by their own choosing they have not classed themselves among its friends. These riotous demonstrations in the North, I have no doubt, give great encouragement to the enemy, and will have a tendency to prolong the war. Since the recent great victories of our armies from the East to the far West, the enemy, like a drowning man, are willing to catch at a straw. Though the rioters may greatly assist the enemy by keeping many of our troops at home who should be at the front, yet the riots will prove a weak straw for the enemy to cling to.

Colonels Phillips and Wattles came in on the 30th from Fort Gibson, with a smaller escort and a number of the wounded from the battle of Honey Springs. They do not furnish any additional information in regard to that battle. From conversations with several other parties, I am satisfied that the account which I have written out is substantially correct. Had I gone more into details, I should have given greater prominence to the part which Colonel Phillips' brigade took in the engagement. I should like to see not only Fort Scott, but every town in Kansas through which Colonel Phillips passes, give him a warm welcome. No citizen of this State has so honorably earned the gratitude [371] of his fellow-citizens as he has, for in his various contests with the enemy during the last six months, he has saved this State from invasion, and the homes of our citizens from desolation. The small politicians may receive ovations in the same places where he passes unnoticed, but the small politician will long have been forgotten, when he will live in the memory of our people as one of the real heroes of the Great Rebellion. This war, in which the great principle of human freedom is involved, marks an epoch in history that will live long after the history of wars waged for political power will have dwindled into nothingness. There are many now living, who will, in less than twenty years from this, doubtless regret that they did not take a hand in this great struggle for justice and right.

The large commissary train is now nearly ready to start for Fort Blunt. It is encamped on Dry Wood Creek, twelve miles south of here. The escort will be under command of Colonel Thomas Bowen, of the 13th Kansas infantry, and will, perhaps, be in readiness to march by August 2d. It is not known yet whether the enemy will make another effort to capture it or not. The latest information from Fort Gibson indicates that General Cooper has been reinforced by General Steele, from Texas, with three or four thousand men and some artillery. Unless General Blunt receives reinforcements soon, the enemy may assume the offensive and attack him, or send a force north of him to attack the train. It is likely, however, that [372] the escort will be strengthened by troops from Fort Blunt by the time it reaches the Neosho River.

The Fourteenth Kansas cavalry is being recruited very rapidly, and in a few weeks will be ready to elect field officers. Major Blair, commanding this post, will probably be made Lieutenant-Colonel of the regiment. Two or three companies raised in Southern Kansas for this regiment have already been doing escort duty for several weeks. The Government is now offering three times as much bounty for each enlistment as it was under the first and second calls of the President for volunteers two years ago. Some time in the future I have no doubt but that there will be a demand made for equalization of bounties. Those who enlisted early in the war, should surely fare as well as those who enlisted several years later. Several of the States that have not yet filled their quotas of troops under the several calls of the President, are offering larger bounties for enlistments than the Government allows. Kansas at present is unable to offer any State bounty. In the east there are men known as “bounty jumpers.” They enlist into the service, receive the Government and State bounties, and then desert and go to some other place and enlist again under another name. From accounts that I have seen, it seems that there are men who have made quite large sums of money by such dishonorable transactions. I regret that my duty as a conscientious observer of the actions of men in connection with the war, compels me to remark. that even here there are many whose chief interest [373] in the Government is to get fat jobs out of it, and to fleece the soldiers of their hard earnings by charging them and their families exorbitant prices for everything they get. Their loyalty is not of that kind that leads men to brave the dangers and hardships of the field and the camp. The less loyalty we have of this kind the better off we shall be.

Information has just reached here from Kansas City that the Government sent out from that place, on the 2nd instant, a large train for new Mexico; and as it was thought that Quantrell, with his guerrilla force, would attack it about the time it would cross over into Kansas, Captain Harvey, of the Sixth Kansas cavalry, with a detachment of forty men, was ordered in the direction from which it was believed that the enemy would approach the train. He had not marched many miles, however, when he came in contact with Captain Coleman of the Ninth Kansas cavalry, and a lively fight ensued before the mistake was discovered. As Captain Coleman had a much larger force than Captain Harvey, the latter retreated, and perhaps got the worst of the affair. He had several men wounded, and was himself run over and trampled under the horses' feet and seriously injured. As Quantrell's men don the Federal uniform whenever it suits their purpose, our troops in Jackson and Cass counties, Missouri, do not always know when they are meeting the enemy until he has delivered his fire. With all the activity that our troops have displayed in those counties during the last six months. the guerrillas there are still as troublesome [374] as at any time since the commencement of the war. Though the country through which they range and carry on their predatory war is not mountainous, a portion of it is so thickly wooded that it is easy for them to find retreats miles from any human habitation. When they make a successful raid on a small body of our troops, or a train, or a town, and capture certain supplies that they require, it is stated that such supplies are conveyed to their retreats and kept for future use. Our troops have on several occasions found out their retreats, and captured or destroyed the property which they had stored.

Two bushwhackers were killed on the 7th by our troops near Balltown, twenty-two miles east of this post, in Vernon county, Missouri. They are believed to have been in the party that killed Whitesides, the enlisted scout, a few weeks ago, only a few miles east of Fort Scott, near the State line. One of the bushwhackers had a pass through the Federal lines in his pocket. It is doubtful whether the enemy keep ahead of us in the killing business; and if they do not, we can stand it longest. Even without the aid of the colored soldiers, the northern and middle States can furnish many more able-bodied men than the rebellious states. One would have thought that the leaders of the rebellion would have carefully consulted the census returns, and studied the resources of the North, before plunging the country into a war in which they could not reasonably hope to be successful, unless they went into it on the hypothesis that one southern man [375] could whip five “Yankees,” as I heard a man say in Texas, about the time of the election of Mr. Lincoln. By reason of their own narrowness, the southern people have not allowed themselves to become acquainted with the strength and resources of the North. A newspaper like the New York Tribune, that discusses the affairs of the whole country freely, was not allowed to circulate in the South before the war. To have it found upon his person in some of the Southern States was almost worth a man's life. They could tolerate almost any of the shortcomings to which human nature is prone, but to say that “Slavery is wrong” was an unpardonable offense. No criminal was so damnable in their eyes as an abolitionist.

Dispatches from the East of recent date show that the rebel leaders are bewailing their misfortunes piteously in their appeals to their followers. They are beginning to feel the weight of the strong arm of the Government, and it seems to me that nothing but blind stupidity could induce them to continue a struggle that is utterly hopeless, unless they wish to make a show of dying in the last ditch. It is now more difficult for the so-called Confederate Government to raise additional troops than it is for the United States. They commenced conscripting before we commenced drafting; and I think that the rebel armies east and west have lost a great many more men by desertions than our armies have.

It is now generally thought that Kansas will not be obliged to draft any men, under any former calls of [376] the President, as she has already furnished very nearly her quota. Her citizens have responded to the several calls of President Lincoln with a patriotic promptness that challenges the admiration of the country. But to fill her quota under the present call for four hundred and fifty thousand men, may possibly require the enforcement of the draft before many months shall have elapsed. Nearly all the young men full of patriotic pride, and who were willing to risk their lives for the Government, have already enlisted. There are many that will be subject to the draft who have a great dread of being made targets for rebel bullets. It is said that they shudder, and that their teeth almost chatter when they read of the great battles in which the men fall in heaps upon each other, and have their limbs torn from their bodies by shot and bursting shells. To those of timid natures, and who almost faint at the sight of human blood, it is not likely the battle field, with the wounded and dying, is a very fascinating picture. At any rate they have a horror of contemplating themselves as going to make up such a picture.

The 10th of August is the second anniversary of my enlistment. Many comrades whose faces were familiar at the morning roll call, on drill and on the march, have dropped out of the ranks and lie buried upon distant fields. The forms and features of fallen comrades, when my thoughts turn back upon the past two years, rise up before me and arouse feelings of real sadness. But ere our work shall have been [377] accomplished, our ranks will doubtless be thinned still more by death.

Fort Scott has recently been made the Headquarters District of the Frontier, commanded by General Blunt. Captain J. (. Haskell, his Chief Quartermaster, and Major H. Z. Curtis, his Assistant Adjutant-General, will remain here for the present. Since August, 1861, this has been the principal place on the border for organizing and equipping our troops for the field. Though only four miles west of the State line, it has not yet been captured by the enemy. They have, however, at different times, captured and killed our pickets, and made several raids on the Government stock grazing on the prairie near town. The place has increased in importance, as a business center, since it has been made a regular depot of supplies. The merchants have a trade extending to a distance of sixty to seventy-five miles around, besides a large trade in outfitting sutlers who accompany the army. It is not likely that the town will diminish in importance even after the war, for it is located in a rich agricultural region, besides the rich deposits of bituminous coal in this vicinity will probably be extensively worked in a few years, which will cause capital and immigration to flow into this section. The prairies around us, now clothed with tons of wild grass per acre, will teem with fields of golden grain. But hundreds of tons of this wild grass can now be used to good purpose by the Government as forage for its animals. Captain M. H. Insley, the Depot Quartermaster, has commenced letting [378] contracts for forage and fuel, and in a few months we shall see long hay ricks rising on the Government lots, and great quantities of corn and oats filling the Government cribs, and the estimated number of cords of wood and tons of coal stored in their proper places. Farmers and teamsters will have no trouble in finding active employment from this time until late in the season. Everybody las an opportunity of making money but the soldier. The farmer gets a good price for everything that he raises; and the mechanic good wages for his labor. A civilian who can barely make a living now would probably be in poverty in ordinary times. When the war closes those who have remained at home will have had opportunities to become almost rich, while the soldiers will have grown poor. It will require unusual energy and economy for the ex-soldier to ever get even with his civilian neighbor in regard to social standing and ease. And no one ever estimates the sacrifice the volunteer soldier makes when he offers his services to his Government.

There has been quite an excitement among the colored men about town for several days in regard to drafting them. The farce of drafting a considerable number was gone through with, but as the officers had no legal authority to draft them, they have been released and returned to their business, or enlisted voluntarily. Enlistments for the Second Kansas colored regiment have been going on at a lively rate for several days; and it is quite likely that the recruiting officers have endeavored to impress the able-bodied [379] colored men with the idea that they may be drafted shortly, and that it will be better for them to enlist now and secure the generous bounty offered by the Government. Indeed it has been suggested that the recruiting officer got up the excitement for the purpose of increasing the number of enlistments per diem. There is a strong incentive to resort to such a trick, for the sooner the officers get their company organizations complete, the sooner they will get mustered into the service. I think, however, that a straightforward course is best in such matters, then there can be no excuse for complaint on the part of the soldier after enlistment. Our enthusiasm for a good cause should never make us dishonest towards those whom we wish to act with us. I see no objection, however, to the recruiting officers making pretty little speeches to those whom they wish to become candidates for enlistment, by appealing to their sense of patriotism, and by telling them “what a grand and heroic thing it is to die for one's country.” There are a good many men whose patriotism is quite latent, and who need some stimulant to arouse them from their state of indifference. They do not always see the connection between the peace and happiness of their quiet homes and the stability of a Government founded on just laws. It therefore becomes proper to point out to them, in as forcible language as possible, that there come times in the history of Governments when they find it necessary to call on their citizens to assist in enforcing the laws, and in defending the life of the nation against [380] foreign or domestic foes. Pictures might be drawn bringing vividly before their minds the fact that, were it not for the strong arm of the Government, their families might very shortly be weeping over their slaughtered bodies in the midst of the ruins of their desolated homes. The fife and drum corps often performs excellent service in stirring up the martial pride of those just in from the country. Every soldier who enlisted early in the war will remember the stirring air of “The Girl I left behind me.”

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