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Chapter 20:

  • A post established at Baxter Springs, with a detachment of cavalry
  • -- bombardment of Charleston and probable fall of Forts Sumter and Wagner -- guerrillas along the border displaying unusual activity -- large quantities of hay being put up for the Government at Fort Scott -- burning and Sacking of Lawrence by Quantrell -- murder of one hundred and fifty of her citizens -- escape of the Desperadoes into Missouri -- Federal troops in pursuit -- the guerillas break up into small detachments -- Kansas needs a State Militia -- looking around for some one to blame -- General Ewing and Schofield Denounced -- some favor the wild notion of a Grand army of invasion, to destroy everything in Missouri for a distance of forty miles from Kansas -- folly of the scheme -- Generals Cooper and Cabell threatening General Blunt -- Paola mass-meeting -- plan of removal of rebel families considered.

A detachment of the Third Wisconsin cavalry was ordered by Colonel Blair to Baxter Springs, on the morning of the 17th, for the purpose of occupying that place as a regular station. Several months ago, in looking over the route of our trains from Fort Scott to Gibson, I remarked, that there was great need of a detachment of cavalry at Baxter. There is no point between this place and Gibson, where a small force of cavalry can be stationed to better advantage. And had not all his cavalry that could be spared been; [382] employed on escort duty, Colonel Blair would have ordered several companies there months ago. Some sort of fortifications have already been constructed, and one or two companies of colored infantry and a piece of light artillery are stationed there to defend the place. With this detachment of cavalry also stationed there, to scout the surrounding country, guerrilla depredations should shortly almost cease. At any rate the guerrillas in that section can be watched more closely, and perhaps prevented from concentrating in sufficient force to attack our trains.

Reports from the East state that General Gilmore's forces, besieging Charleston, are gradually battering down the enemy's works. From accounts, the bombardment of the city and of Forts Sumter and Wagner, recently, must have been terrific. It is thought that Sumter will certainly fall in a few days, as great breaches have already been made in some portions of the defences. Our siege-gun batteries keep pouring in such a steady stream of shot and shell, that the enemy do not get time to repair the openings. The fall of Charleston will be a great humiliation to the rebels, since it was at that place they seized the first Government property, and made the first attack upon the United States troops. They are not having such a jolly time as when they were besieging Major Anderson's little command, in April, 1861. They will, unquestionably, be in a bad way when the hot-bed in which their secession ideas have been nurtured since the days of Calhoun, shall have been captured by our forces. [383]

Information received here from several points along the border towards Kansas City, indicates that the guerrilla bands in the counties of Jackson, Cass and Johnson, are displaying unusual activity. It is just a year ago since they concentrated in Jackson County, and attacked Lone Jack, and captured two pieces of artillery from our troops. This present great activity portends some mischief. It is not thought now that they can get together more than three or four hundred men in that section. But considering that every man is almost loaded down with repeating rifles and revolvers, this force is equal to about a thousand of our best troops. Our officers operating along the border know approximately the number of men each guerrilla chieftain can muster. With that number of men they are not likely to attack any of our stations along the border, for they have never to my knowledge attacked a superior force of our troops. They have, however, fought like tigers to get out of a tight place. For fifty miles south of Kansas City, we have, I should think, not less than fifteen hundred troops. They know, or should know, the character of the enemy with whom they have to deal. And of course they understand perfectly that they cannot with safety relax their vigilance for a single day. Quantrell's band is known to be composed of the worst men in the country, and would no doubt like an opportunity to cross the line and invade Kansas. The people of this State know that they have repeatedly threatened to make a raid into it, to recapture the stook, etc., [384] alleged to have been taken from Missouri by our troops. From what we know of his men, we have reason to believe that they will not only commit such depredations as robbery and plunder, but that their trail will be stained by the blood of our citizens, and the torch they may also apply almost indiscriminately. But they are closely looked after by the troops under General Thomas Ewing, commanding District of the Border.

Nothing further has been heard of the gathering of the guerrilla bands under Quantrell north of us, and everything has been unusually quiet at this post, and in this section for several days. Our scouting parties into Missouri return without having heard anything of the guerrillas, who have for the last year infested Vernon and Barton Counties. Indeed for several days past, each day is a repetition of the day before. The sentinels guarding public property at different points, walk leisurely to and fro upon their beats, with their bright muskets on their shoulders, as in times of profound peace. Captain M. H. Insley, the Depot Quartermaster, is beginning to receive the new hay recently contracted for, and a number of large ricks have commenced going up. The dust has been flying all day, on all the roads leading into town, caused by the numerous civilian teams hauling hay and coal, for delivery on contract. While the work of laying in the winter supply of fuel and forage is going on, there is also great activity at all the Commissary, Quartermaster and Ordinance store houses. Trains from Fort, [385] Leavenworth are unloading at one place, and trains for Fort Gibson are loading at another place. The depot and staff quartermasters, commissaries and ordinance officers, are kept busy in supplying the troops in the Indian country with stores furnished by their respective departments. Considering the amount of Government property stored at this post, some of our officers feel apprehensions for its safety, for if the enemy should capture or kill our pickets, and make a dash upon the place in the night, we are not sure that Colonel Blair has a sufficient number of troops at his disposal to successfully defend the town, or public property. He is vigilant, however, and may not permit the enemy to approach very near unobserved.

Information reached this post, on the evening of the 22d, that the city of Lawrence in this State was sacked, burned and nearly two hundred of her citizens killed, by about three hundred men under Quantrell, at day-break on the morning of the 21st instant. It seems that Quantrell crossed the State line on Thursday evening, 20th instant, with his force, and marched all night, and reached Lawrence Friday morning at four o'clock, and immediately commenced their fiendish work of robbing, burning property, and shooting down the male citizens who were unarmed and defenseless. A gentleman who escaped from the scene of the slaughter and desolation, described to me this evening, quite vividly, what he saw, and I have obtained particulars from other sources, all tending to show that it would be impossible to exaggerate the [386] fiendishness of the ruffians. The ruffians, when they approached the city, threw a guard around it to prevent any of the men from escaping. They then marched into the principal part of the city and commenced their work. Everything in the way of money and jewelry was taken, the houses set on fire, and the men shot down in the presence of their families. Many instances are reported, in which men were shot down while their wives, daughters and mothers were clinging to them, and begging that they might be spared. But the entreaties of the women, that the lives of those so dear to them might be spared, had no effect on the hardened hearts of the monsters in human form. If there were no women to remove the lifeless bodies of the men, they were left to be consumed by the devouring flames. The loss of life by this worse than fiendish act, cannot be accurately known until the ruins of the desolated city have been carefully examined. I have also heard that the enemy threw a good many bodies into wells and cisterns. In less than half an hour after the enemy entered the city, it was in a sheet of flame. All the best portion of it has been burned, and hundreds of families have not only lost all their male members but their houses and effects also. For cruelty and heartlessness, I doubt whether this outrage has a parallel in modern warfare. And were it not already committed, it would be difficult to believe that three hundred fiends could be got together in this country for the purpose of committing it. They surprised and captured twenty-five colored recruits, who [387] were shot dead on the spot. A few men escaped through corn fields adjacent to the city. Someone carried the news of the enemy being in the city to Senator Lane, and he escaped on horseback. He had left but a moment when they surrounded his house with the full confidence that they had caught him. After they had satiated themselves by robbing, burning and murdering for several hours, they withdrew and marched towards Missouri. They remounted themselves on fresh horses, obtained from the public and private stables in Lawrence, and each man led back the horse which he rode into the city, or obtained a better one in its place. With fine fresh animals, our best cavalry companies on the border, on account of the hard service their horses have performed this summer, could not have kept up with the enemy many hours. If Quantrell is hotly pursued by our troops, he can leave his led horses and the goods with which some of them are known to have been packed. But as it is only about thirty-five miles from Lawrence to the State line, it was soon apparent that he would get back into Missouri unmolested, or, at any rate, with a trifling loss of men and property.

An interval of two days brought additional particulars. General Lane, a few hours after his flight from his home, collected together about twenty men, and followed and overtook, and skirmished with the rear of the enemy about twelve miles from Lawrence. He also dispatched couriers to various points where we had troops stationed, with the view of having them [388] intercept the enemy. Anyway, our troops between Kansas City and Paola got word of the destruction of Lawrence, and the massacre of her citizens, and made an effort to intercept Quantrell on his return. A few miles north of Paola our troops and citizens attacked him, but as he was not disposed to fight he managed to evade them, and get into Missouri with the loss of two or three men, and some of the animals that were being led. As it is mostly a prairie country between Lawrence and the State line, and as our officers were informed, a few hours after he passed into Kansas, of the fact, I am yet unable to understand why more effective measures were not taken to pursue him the moment he invaded the State, and to intercept him on his return. The section that he passed over between the State line and Lawrence is rather thickly settled, and some of the citizens on his line of march are surely chargeable with gross negligence in failing to inform the people of Lawrence, and our officers, of the enemy's movements. It is reported that Captain Coleman sent a messenger to warn Lawrence that Quantrell had passed into Kansas, and might be moving in that direction. But the messenger was either intercepted by the enemy, or the enemy reached Lawrence before him.

Our troops are still continuing the pursuit, but as the enemy have reached the heavily wooded country of Cass county, they will probably break up into small bands, and return to their isolated retreats, where it will be difficult to find them. Colonel [389] Saysear, of the First Missouri State Militia cavalry, commenced a vigorous pursuit of Quantrell soon after he crossed into Missouri, and overtook him on Big Creek near Harrisonville, and killed six of his men. Majors Plumb and Thatcher, of the Eleventh Kansas cavalry, have also overtaken several detachments of the enemy, and killed a number of his men.

As Quantrell's men have so often threatened the destruction of Lawrence during the last eighteen months, and as the place is second in size and importance in the State, and the home of Senator Lane, it is unaccountable why several companies of troops have not been stationed there. Having always been opposed to the border ruffians, it has since the war been an object of especial hatred by them. If a battalion from the regularly organized forces could not have been spared from active service on the border, then a militia force should have been organized for the protection of the city, somewhat on the plan of the Missouri State troops. Kansas needs a State militia organization just as much as Missouri, for our towns, as distant from the State line as the second tier of counties, are liable to attack and destruction by detachments of guerrillas from Missouri at almost any time. It is possible for a small detachment of men mounted on good animals to penetrate the State, unobserved, for a distance of thirty-five or forty miles, during a single night's march. Even if their horses should get much fatigued, they would have very little trouble in getting fresh ones. There are a great many men who do not [390] wish to enter the volunteer service, yet who could be easily induced to enter the militia service of the State for their immediate protection. With a well organized militia, there would be no need for any portion of the volunteer forces to occupy a place as distant from the scene of active operations as Lawrence.

Now that Quantrell has committed his fiendish act and escaped deserved punishment, our people, political leaders particularly, are looking around for some one upon whom to cast the blame. A good deal of excitement seems likely to grow out of the barbarous act of the enemy, for it is a shock to not only the people of this State, but to the entire North, and to loyal hearts everywhere. It is, however, in perfect keeping with the principle for which the South is fighting. Our people could never be led to commit such atrocious acts, except by way of retaliation; and even then, I think few men could be found mean enough to take gold rings from the fingers of ladies, as Quantrell's men did. But there is a phase of the discussion of this great crime that I regret to hear. Some are loud in their denunciation of Generals Ewing and Schofield, and there are others who not only denounce these officers for permitting the enemy to invade the State, but insist that it is the duty of the citizens of Kansas to assemble at some point and march into Missouri and down her border counties, and burn and destroy everything for a distance of forty miles from the State line, regardless of the political status of the owners of property. I have heard some men who were boiling [391] over with indignation, and apparently ready to join the Grand Army of Invasion, declare that there are no loyal men in Missouri, and that the torch should be applied, and not a house left standing within a hundred miles of Kansas. This remark was suggested: “Gentlemen, if you are really so full of loyalty and martial enthusiasm, why don't you enlist into the Fourteenth and Fifteenth regiments now organizing and needing recruits?” Though every loyal person regrets the calamity at Lawrence, it is no time for reckless talk. Nor should men on this side of the line think of holding the Union people of Missouri responsible for the acts of the enemy. It is an absurd and extravagant notion, and savors more of political buncomb than true devotion to the Government. Our people should remember that Missouri has sent to the field, including her State troops, nearly a hundred thousand loyal men, upwards of Six times the number of men this State has furnished for the war. Union people in Missouri are every day being murdered and robbed by guerrillas and bushwhackers, though the State militia are furnishing all the protection in their power. Are the loyal people there entitled to no sympathy? As I have already described the scenes of desolated homes in Missouri, I will only add the remark, that life, and liberty to enjoy it, is as sweet on that side of the line as on this. The Missouri troops now at the front, and who have participated in the capture of Fort Donelson and Vicksburg, and the great battles in Tennessee, have enough to torture their [392] minds, in contemplating guerrillas burning their homes and leaving their families houseless and defenceless, without our troops or people committing unjustifiable acts to increase their anxiety. And moreover, those whose loyalty to the Government consists in extravagant expressions, should also remember that a considerable portion of the soldiers of most of the Kansas regiments were citizens of Missouri up to the time of their enlistments. And if reports be true, and I have endeavored to get at the exact truth, the Missouri State troops have followed Quantrell more persistently, and killed more of his men, than have our Kansas troops that are stationed along the border.

A man named Morgan was killed on the 28th, a few miles east of Dry Wood, Missouri. From such facts as I have been able to obtain, it appears that this man has been in the habit, for some time, of coming to this post and getting such information in regard to our operations, along the border and in the Indian country, as he could pick up, and of carrying it across the line to bushwhackers, and thus keeping them perfectly advised of our movements. If there are any persons who come here for the purpose of getting information to betray us into the hands of the enemy, and lose their lives in the operation, it will perhaps have a wholesome effect on the minds of others engaged in similar service. The permission granted to people of questionable loyalty, to trade with the merchants of this place unrestricted, has perhaps cost us the lives of quite a number of our soldiers. [393]

Several special messengers with the mail and despatches, who arrived on the morning of the 30th, from Fort Gibson, report that the enemy, under Generals Cooper and Cabell, are no longer assuming such a threatening attitude as they were a few weeks ago. They have fallen back from their old position on the south bank of the Arkansas River, near Fort Gibson, to the north fork of Canadian River, about fifty miles further south. General Cabell has gone to Fort Smith with his division, as we have a column of troops under General John McNeil, ready to march down the line via Fayetteville to Van Buren. It is thought that General Blunt will be ready to move forward and attack General Cooper in a few days. After beating General Cooper he intends to swing to the left, and attack Fort Smith, and take it by storm if the enemy defends it. Our troops are getting full rations, and are well supplied with ammunition. The cholera and small-pox have almost disappeared, and the soldiers are in good spirits, and ready to open a vigorous fall campaign against the enemy. General Cooper has been beaten so often the last year, I doubt whether he can keep his troops together to make a hard fight.

A mass meeting of the citizens of Kansas is to take place at Paola in a few days, for the purpose of considering the plan and setting the day when they shall invade Missouri en masse, and march down the border with fire and sword, and thunder and lightning, and make it impossible for bushwhackers to invade this State again. If the citizens of the State nearly all [394] turn out, and their martial ardor keeps up at a white heat, I think that the recruiting officers of the Fourteenth and Fifteenth regiments should be on the ground. They should be able to get recruits enough to till their respective regiments in a single day. But the noisiest are not always most eager to make personal sacrifices for the cause which they pretend to champion. Stirring speeches are to be made by General James H. Lane, United States Senator from this State, Colonel C. R. Jennison, and a number of other orators. As an unprejudiced observer of current events, I must express my belief that the politicians of Kansas are inclined to make political capital out of the Lawrence calamity, which I do not think is at all creditable to them. If the citizens of the State, when they assemble at Paola, would express their horror, in a suitable manner, of the enormity of the crime committed by the enemy at Lawrence, so that the civilized world might see the barbarous method of warfare the Confederacy is fostering, and then adjourn sine die, I think that they will have acted more sensibly than if they issue flaming manifestoes of devastation of the country of our neighbors across the line.

A rebel force of about one hundred men passed Balltown on the morning of September 1st, moving south. The men are believed to be a portion of Quantrell's command who participated in the Lawrence massacre. If they can find any other unguarded point, or a small detachment of our troops, we may expect to hear from them again shortly. They will [395] not likely have any opposition to their movements down the border unless they come in contact with the Missouri militia stationed at Neosho, or some detachment of our troops on a scout. In fact, if they keep near the State line, the country is open to the Arkansas River. The State militia have not made regular stations at Carthage and Lamar, for the reason that those towns have been destroyed, and the country around them desolated, leaving scarcely anything in that region to protect. This devastated territory the enemy can march over and occupy for weeks without our knowing it, if they are not aggressive; and then, at their leisure, can make raids into Kansas, or into the counties east of the border counties of Missouri. In the interior of Missouri such raids are impossible, or at any rate, quite rare, for the reason that no considerable body of guerrillas can collect together, or come into a neighborhood without the Union families knowing it.

Since Quantrell's raid on Lawrence, and the agitations of irregular organizations from this State going into Missouri for the purpose of burning and destroying everything, a good many rebel families who have been living in the border counties of Missouri, have; commenced moving south. In those sections infested with guerrillas, I think that the rebel families who give them aid and comfort should be sent south of our lines. Such action would probably do more to stop bushwhacking and the guerrilla warfare, than burning or destroying the property of rebel families, [396] and leaving them in the country. Let rebel families understand that they can remain on their homesteads, provided no guerrillas infest the section, and I believe that they would generally discourage guerrilla warfare. A regular invasion by the organized forces of the Confederacy I would not consider as sufficient grounds for their removal. By removing them south the rebel authorities would be obliged to provide for them, and the inducement for husbands and male relations to return to the State would no longer exist. As soon as our troops occupied Missouri, an order of this kind should, in my judgment, have been published by the commanding General. Then, if the enemy persisted in their illegitimate warfare, we could stand it as well as they. If the officers and soldiers operating with the regular forces of the Confederacy, wish their families to remain at their homes in Missouri until the present contest shall have been decided, let them prevail on the rebel authorities to stop the guerrilla warfare in those States occupied by our troops. We are able to stop it quite effectually, and without resorting to any barbarous methods. The question arises, shall we do it? I think that we should, for it is no time for sentimental considerations to turn us aside from our duty. Union families within the rebel lines would perhaps regard themselves fortunate if they could be sent within our lines if they could take with them their personal effects. To compel the removal of thousands of families would no doubt entail great hardships on many of them. [397] But such hardships would be borne by them to save our people from the cruelties of their relatives and friends, whom they have been in the habit of harboring and encouraging.

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