Sunday, August 25, 2013

Civilians Expelled from Northern Missouri

After the massacre at Lawrence, Kansas on August 21th, it did not take the Federals long to respond. 150 years ago today General Thomas Ewing issued General Order No. 11, which said:
All persons living in Jackson, Cass, and Bates counties, Missouri ... are hereby ordered to remove from their present places of residence within fifteen days from the date hereof.

Those who within that time establish their loyalty to the satisfaction of the commanding officer of the military station near their present place of residence will receive from him a certificate stating the fact of their loyalty, and the names of the witnesses by whom it can be shown. All who receive such certificates will be permitted to remove to any military station in this district, or to any part of the State of Kansas, except the counties of the eastern border of the State. All others shall remove out of the district. Officers commanding companies and detachments serving in the counties named will see that this paragraph is promptly obeyed.

All grain and hay in the field or under shelter, in the district from which inhabitants are required to remove, within reach of military stations after the 9th day of September next, will be taken to such stations and turned over to the proper officers there …. All grain and hay found in such district after the 9th day of September next, not convenient to such stations, will be destroyed.
Bloody Bill Anderson, Confederate bushwacker
Ewing believed Buskwackers such as Quantrill were able to raid like they did because of the support of the local population. With this order he sought to strike at the root of the problem by forcing the population of Missouri into military stations or out of the area. He was also trying to stop the Union Jayhawkers, lead by Senator James Lane, who wanted to retaliate for Lawrence by destroying a pro-slavery town. But in doing so the Federal troops uprooted families, both southern and northern, destroying their property and leaving the area where they had once lived into “The Burnt District.” The order was also not effective in preventing Confederate guerillas. In fact it made supplies more readily available, as now there was no one to stop them from taking food from the abandoned farms of the settlers. The tragic situation in Kansas and Missouri resulted in great hardships for both sides. A pro-Union artist who was in the area at the time wrote:
It is well-known that men were shot down in the very act of obeying the order, and their wagons and effects seized by their murderers. Large trains of wagons, extending over the prairies for miles in length, and moving Kansasward, were freighted with every description of household furniture and wearing apparel belonging to the exiled inhabitants. Dense columns of smoke arising in every direction marked the conflagrations of dwellings, many of the evidences of which are yet to be seen in the remains of seared and blackened chimneys, standing as melancholy monuments of a ruthless military despotism which spared neither age, sex, character, nor condition. There was neither aid nor protection afforded to the banished inhabitants by the heartless authority which expelled them from their rightful possessions. They 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.
The artist painted this scene of the Burnt District

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lawrence Massacre

There were few battles in Kansas turning the Civil War, but it was the scene of brutal guerrilla fighting. This had been occurring between the pro-slavery and anti-settlers since John Brown was here in the 1850s. 150 years ago today one of the most notorious guerrilla actions occurred – the Lawrence Massacre.

The Confederate in charge of the men who perpetrated the slaughter was William Quantrill. Although he was born in Ohio and anti-slavery, he became a drifter and ruffian in Missouri and Kansas and learned the profitability of turning in escaped slaves. His political views followed his pocketbook. When the war came, he joined a regiment of Cherokee Indians fighting for the Confederacy, and learned guerrilla tactics from them. After fighting in the Battle of Wilson's Creek he deserted the army and set out to form his own group of raiders. A handful of men joined him to attack the Union army and civilians along the Kansas-Missouri border. His men included Frank and Jesse James and the Younger Brothers, who would gain notoriety as criminals after the war.

In 1863 Quantrill decided to attack and destroy a Union town as retaliation for Union deprecations on a smaller scale. He picked the town of Lawrence, Kansas, which had been sacked already in the “Bleeding Kansas” fighting before the war. He convinced other Bushwakers to join him, and all told they numbered 300-400 men. Multiple columns converged on the town, striking early on the morning of August 21. There were no soldiers in the town at the time, and the raiders were free to ride through, looting, burning and plundering. The military age men and boys were stopped and killed. Quantrill had prepared lists of men and businesses to be specially targeted. At the top of the list was Senator James Lane, a leader who had led devastating raids into Missouri. He escaped only by running through a cornfield in his nightshirt.

After four hours of destruction the Buskwackers made their escape. A quarter of the buildings in the town were burnt, and about 200 men and boys lay dead. The raiders only lost one man, shot from his horse as they left the town. The column split up, effectively avoiding the weak Union pursuit.

Ruins of Lawrence
The issues of the guerrilla fighting were not as clear cut as they might seem. The southerners had suffered much at the hands of their pro-slavery neighbors. One boy, Riley Crawford, was sent by his mother to ride with Quantrill when he was only 13, because the Yankees had burned their home and killed his father. The Lawrence Massacre was certainly unwarranted, but the wrongs were not all one sided.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rosecrans' Campaigns

After defeating Braxton Bragg's army at the Battle of Stone's River in January, William Rosecrans made no movement for six months. He wanted to make sure that he was completely prepared before he risked anything. After much urging from President Lincoln, Rosecrans finally launched a campaign against Bragg. He had 65,000 men to the Confederate's 46,000. Instead of trying a direct attack, he would try to destroy Bragg through maneuver.

Tullohoma Campaign
Bragg had his troops along the Nashville and Chattanooga railroad behind a ridge with only four passes. Rosecrans planed to outflank Bragg. He sent his main column through the east most gap, while at the same time another column would feint in the same direction. He hoped that Bragg would see the smaller column as a feint and look for the attack in the wrong direction. At the same time a detachment of mounted infantry drove deep into Bragg's rear. Rosecrans' plan worked perfectly. By the time Bragg realized that the movements on his right were really not a feint, he was convinced by the raid that he needed to retreat. He fell back all the way to the other side of the Tennessee river. Rosecrans, in what some had called the most brilliant campaign of the war, had driven Bragg from a strong position and out of Middle Tennessee. But the nearly bloodless victory was overshadowed by the capture of Vicksburg and defeat of Lee at Gettysburg, and Bragg's army was still intact, and a battle would still have to be fought.

After this successful campaign, Rosecrans yet again halted. He again refused to move for several weeks to study the terrain and ensure that everything was prepared for another campaign. He would move next on Chattanooga, an important manufacturing and transportation center on the Tennessee-Georgia line.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lee Resigns

 150 years ago today, with the Gettysburg campaign over, Robert E. Lee wrote a letter of resignation to Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy. He had led the greatest invasion into Federal territory, but had been defeated. He said:
Camp Orange, August 8, 1863

His Excellency Jefferson Davis,
President of the Confederate States

Mr. President,
... We must expect reverses, even defeats. They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies and to prevent our falling into greater disasters. Our people have only to be true and united, to bear manfully the misfortunes incident to war, and all will come right in the end.

I know how prone we are to censure and how ready to blame others for the non-fulfillment of our expectations. This is unbecoming in a generous people, and I grieve to see its expression. The general remedy for the want of success in a military commander is his removal. This is natural, and in many instances, proper. For, no matter what may be the ability of the officer, if he loses the confidence of his troops disaster must sooner or later ensue.

I have been prompted by these reflections more than once since my return from Pennsylvania to propose to Your Excellency the propriety of selecting another commander for this army. I have seen and heard of expression of discontent in the public journals at the result of the expedition. I do not know how far this feeling extends in the army. My brother officers have been too kind to report it, and so far the troops have been too generous to exhibit it. It is fair, however, to
suppose that it it does exist, and success is so necessary to us that nothing should be risked to secure it. I therefore, in all sincerity, request Your Excellency to take measures to supply my place. I do this with the more earnestness because no one is more aware than myself of my inability for the duties of my position. I cannot even accomplish what I myself desire. How can I fulfill the expectations of others? In addition I sensibly feel the growing failure of my bodily strength. ... Everything, therefore, points to the advantages to be derived from a new commander, and I the more anxiously urge the matter upon Your Excellency from my belief that a younger and abler man than myself can readily be attained. I know that he will have as gallant and brave an army as ever existed to second his efforts, and it would be the happiest day of my life to see at its head a worthy leader -- one that would accomplish more than I could perform and all that I have wished. I hope Your Excellency will attribute my request to the true reason, the desire to serve my country, and to do all in my power to insure the success of her righteous cause.

I have no complaints to make of any one but myself. I have received nothing but kindness from those above me, and the most considerate attention from my comrades and companions in arms. To Your Excellency I am specially indebted for uniform kindness and consideration. You have done everything in your power to aid me in the work committed to my charge, without omitting anything to promote the general welfare. I pray that your efforts may at length be crowned with success, and that you may long live to enjoy the thanks of grateful people.

With sentiments of great esteem, I am, very respectfully and truly, yours,

R.E. Lee,

In this letter Lee exhibited some of his greatest characteristics. He did not try to blame others for his defeat, but accepted responsibility for his actions. He was grateful, thanking Davis for what he had done for him, and asked that a better man be appointed to his place. But Davis had no better man. He trusted Lee and had a relationship like he had with few other of his commanders. Throughout much of the war he would be fruitlessly searching for a competent commander for the west. Removing Lee would only make the command problem worse. Davis replied a few days later:
Richmond, VA., August 11, 1863.
General R. E. Lee,
Commanding Army of Northern Virginia.

General: Yours of the 8th instant has been received. I am glad that you concur so entirely with me as to the wants of our country in this trying hour, and am happy to add that, after the first depression consequent upon our disasters in the West, indications have appeared that our people will exhibit that fortitude which we agree in believing is alone needful to secure ultimate success.

It well became Sidney Johnston, when overwhelmed by a senseless clamor, to admit the rule that success is the test of merit, and yet there is nothing which I have found to require a greater effort of patience than to bear the criticisms of the ignorant, who pronounce everything a failure which does not equal their expectations or desires, and can see no good result which is not in the line of their own imaginings. I admit the propriety of your conclusions, that an officer who loses the confidence of his troops should have his position changed, whatever may be his ability; but when I read the sentence, I was not at all prepared for the application you were about to make. Expressions of discontent in the public journals furnish but little evidence of the sentiment of an army. ...

Were you capable of stooping to it, you could easily surround yourself with those who would fill the press with your laudations and seek to exalt you for what you have not done, rather than detract from the achievements which will make you and your army the subject of history, and object of the world's admiration for generations to come. …

But suppose, my dear friend, that I were to admit, with all their implications, the points which you present, where am I to find that new commander who is to possess the greater ability which you believe to be required? I do not doubt the readiness with which you would give way to one who could accomplish all that you have wished, and you will do me the justice to believe that, if Providence should kindly offer such a person for our use, I would not hesitate to avail of his services.

... To ask me to substitute you by someone in my judgment more fit to command, or who would possess more of the confidence of the army, or of reflecting men in the country, is to demand an impossibility.

It only remains for me to hope that you will take all possible care of yourself, that your health and strength may be entirely restored, and that the Lord will preserve you for the important duties devolved upon you in the struggle of our suffering country for the independence of which we have engaged in war to maintain.

As ever, very respectfully and truly,
Jefferson Davis

Confederate cabinet