1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Chapter 42 Part 1

CHAPTER XLII

DISTRICT OF THE BORDER

General Blunt marched on Van Buren on the 27th of December. The melting snow on the Boston Mountains made this one of the hardest and most disagreeable marches of the war. Cove Creek was running full of ice and slush, and the troops were compelled to ford this stream thirty-six times in marching twenty miles. There were no bridges, and the men were compelled to wade the stream, which was sometimes waist deep. On the 28th Hindman's rear guard was overtaken and attacked. It fled in a panic to Van Buren. Blunt's army soon entered that town and Hindman was driven out. His army was demoralized, and he retreated to Little Rock.

Thomas Ewing, Jr.

GEN. THOMAS EWING, JR.

[Copy by Willard of Portrait in Library of Kansas State Historical Society]

The Eleventh Kansas was sent to Kansas City, where it arrived in June, 1863, and became a part of the force of the District of the Border. Thomas Ewing, Jr., was made Brigadier-General, in command of the District. Thomas Moonlight was made Colonel of the Eleventh Kansas, and P.B. Plumb Lieutenant-Colonel.

The condition on the border at that time was deplorable. In Missouri there remained many who were disloyal. Various causes prevented their enlistment and continuous service in the Confederate army, the desire to engage in the irregular and unrestrained warfare of the guerrilla being uppermost. Of these men Ingalls truly said:

During the war they became guerrillas and bushwhackers under Price, Anderson and Quantrill; assassins, thugs, poisoners of wells, murderers of captive women and children, sackers of defenseless towns, houseburners, horsethieves, perpetrators of atrocities that would make the blood of Sepoys run cold.

These guerrillas moved in bands. They quartered themselves on the disloyal and such of the loyal as they did not despoil and murder. From brakes and coverts they attacked small detachments of Federal soldiers passing from point to point. These bands had the full and unreserved support of the Confederate officers.

The chief of these marauders was Quantrill, a renegade Ohioan. His bloody deeds shocked the world; but even that did not meet the demands of the disloyal element in Missouri; he was dethroned, and Todd, more brutal and diabolic, was elevated to his place. Quantrill had no love for the Confederacy; but Todd's devotion to it was fanatical. Bill Anderson had all the bloody attributes of Todd, but was made of baser clay and possessed lower instincts. In the District of the Border were also a score of lesser guerrilla captains, Parker, the Youngers, and others, all bent on the murder of Missouri Union men, whether soldiers or noncombatants, and with a thirst for robbery which it took the law thirty years to quench after the war was over.

When General Ewing assumed command of the District of the Border he found his Missouri counties overrun with this banditti. It lurked in every thicket and prowled around every outpost. It crossed the border line and sacked helpless villages in Kansas, and, returning to Missouri fastnesses, left a trail of blood and ruin. The conditions were greatly aggravated by the presence in Kansas of sordid and unpatriotic men, who, as General Ewing said, were preying on the misery of Missouri and stealing themselves rich in the name of liberty.

This warfare was not wholly between Kansas and the people of Missouri. Indeed, it had its deepest bitterness between the people of Missouri themselves, neighbor against neighbor. Of those who remained at home, or who returned after a temporary service, the sympathizers with the Confederacy far outnumbered those who loved the Old Flag. These latter were almost all expelled or murdered by the former. Of those who fled from home the majority went to Kansas, where they either enlisted in Kansas regiments or sought favorable occasions to visit their old homes with arms in their hands to even up former differences with neighbors. There were many Missourians in every Kansas regiment. In every county in Missouri the loyal men enlisted in the Union army. These soldiers, whether in Missouri or Kansas regiments, were far more bitter towards their former neighbors and fellow-citizens than were the Kansans. They were nearly always moved by personal grievances.

When General Ewing had looked over his field he was appalled at the conditions and the magnitude of the task assigned him. On the 20th of June he wrote General Schofield that the whole border thirty miles into Kansas was greatly disturbed, and that it would take little more than the present demonstration of guerrillas to stampede the whole country.

Three gangs of bushwhackers in Cass and Jackson counties had already grown formidable since the removal of Colonel Penick's regiment. Yager and his band of outlaws had, in May, ridden west over the Santa Fe Trail beyond Council Grove, committing many robberies and murders, and had returned to Missouri with small loss. General Ewing found awaiting him an urgent demand for six companies of cavalry to protect the country along the Santa Fe Trail as far west as Larned, and while he recognized the justice of the request, he had no troops to spare for the purpose. The guerrillas killed four Union men and one girl, and wounded nine, in a German settlement near Lexington on the 14th of July. After the removal of the Fifth Missouri, guerrillas crowded up to the bounds of Kansas City. Citizens were murdered and their homes burned almost daily in Jackson County, and conditions were worse in the outlying portions of the District. General Ewing wrote, on August 3d, that:

About one-half the farmers in the border tier of counties of Missouri in my District, at different times since the war began, entered the rebel service. One-half of them are dead or still in the service; the other half, quitting from time to time the rebel armies, have returned to those counties. Unable to live at their homes if they would, they have gone to bushwhacking, and have driven almost all avowed Unionists out of the country or to the military stations. And now, sometimes in bands of several hundred, they scour the country, robbing and killing those they think unfriendly to them, and threatening the settlements of the Kansas border and the towns and stations in Missouri.

Continuing, General Ewing said that about two-thirds of the families on the occupied farms of that region were related to the guerrillas, and were actively and heartily engaged in feeding, clothing, and sustaining them. The physical character of the land greatly favored guerrilla warfare, and the presence there of the families caused the presence of the guerrillas. It was impossible to clear the country of them as long as the families remained, and General Ewing proposed and was granted permission, to send the families of the most active guerrillas out of his District to some point in Arkansas accessible by steamboat, there to remain until the war ended. This was the inception of Order No. 11.

On the 31st of July General Ewing had present for duty in the District of the Border one hundred and two officers and twenty-five hundred and forty-six men. With this small force he was expected to garrison and patrol, battle over and protect nearly sixty thousand square miles of territory, including an Indian frontier of vast extent, the supply-line from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Scott for General Blunt's District of the Frontier, and one hundred miles of bloody border-line. General Ewing's plans for guarding the border were the best that could be made with the troops at his disposal. To prevent the invasion of Kansas he established posts or stations on and along the State-line south of Kansas City to the limits of his District.

These stations were usually about twelve miles apart, and were:

Westport, six miles out.

Shawnee Mission, three miles from Westport.

Little Santa Fe, ten miles south of Westport; commanded by Captain Charles F. Coleman, Company D, Ninth Kansas, with his company and a detachment of Company M, Fifth Kansas Cavalry, in all about eighty men.

Aubry, twelve miles south of Little Santa Fe; commanded by Captain J.A. Pike, Company K, Ninth Kansas, with his own company and Company D, Eleventh Kansas; both companies made a force of about one. hundred men.

Coldwater Grove, thirteen miles south of Aubry; commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Charles S. Clark, Ninth Kansas, with Company E of his own regiment. All the troops south of Little Santa Fe, in the District of the Border, were under the immediate command of Colonel Clark.

Rockville, thirteen miles south of Coldwater Grove; commander and number of men not found.

Trading Post, on the Marais des Cygnes, fifteen miles south of Rockville; Captain B.F. Goss, Company F, Ninth Kansas.

Barnesville, in north part of Bourbon County; a garrison of one or two companies, but not shown in the returns.

Patrols were to pass constantly from post to post, at hourly intervals. Important information was to be passed along by a line of couriers to headquarters at Kansas City. If a hostile force appeared it was to be pursued instantly, and if too large to be attacked by the pursuers, help was to be summoned from other posts. Couriers were to be sent to alarm the Kansas border towns, where the defense was mainly composed of militia quartered usually in their own homes and sometimes difficult to assemble.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 2000.

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