Tuesday, September 9, 2008

the battle of Athens

Prior to the battle of Wilson’s Creek, Brigadier General Nathaniel Lyon pursues the secessionist Missouri State Guard to the state’s southwest corner, but his movement’s also leaves many stranded secessionists behind Union lines as an unintended consequence.

The small battle here in extreme northeast Missouri, on Aug. 5, 1861, reveals a typical Missouri scenario early in the war. Believed to be a pro-Southern hotbed, Athens is seized in July 1861 by pro-Union Home Guard Col. David Moore and 500 men. Moore captures many horses and his men bivouac in the town buildings.

In hopes of “liberating” the Des Moines River town, a pro-southern Missouri State Guard force of more than 2,000 men and a motley 3 gun collection, including a reinforced hollow log, under Col. Martin Green approach.

Although outnumbered, Moore’s men are better armed and fight off the attack, capture 450 horses with full tack, hundreds of arms, and a wagon load of long knives. The defeat demoralizes the State Guard's efforts in Northeast Missouri. They lose the initiative and are obliged to avoid capture by their pursuers rather than move on their own.

Although the Battle of Athens secures northeast Missouri for the Union, it gives a taste of things to come: as Lyon’s quick move southwest leaves many yet-unorganized but armed secessionists behind over much of the state.

Long known as the “farthest north” battle of the Civil War, Athens is the closest actual combat comes to the state of Iowa. It also reveals the confusion of studying the war in Missouri as the battle pits the 'Home Guard' (pro-northern Unionists) against the 'State Guard' (pro-south secessionists)

The historic site encompasses most of Athens including several historic buildings including the “Cannonball House,” with battle scars.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Fremont's Emancipation Proclamation

Union Department commander General John C. Fremont issues an ‘emancipation proclamation on August 30, 1861 declaring rebel enslaved Missourians ‘forever free’. Bypassing Lincoln’s authority, Fremont obviously exceeds his - Lincoln demands Fremont rewrite the proclamation to conform to the 1st Confiscation Act of 1861 which removes slaves from Confederate hands and transfers ownership to the federal government. Fremont declines to admit an error and declines to rescind the order.

The general, ahead of his time by about a year, notes that "The time has come for decisive action; this is a war measure, and as such I make it. I have been given full power to crush the rebellion in this Department, and I will bring the penalties of rebellion home to every man found striving against the Union."

However, at this stage of the war, Lincoln cannot risk alienating border-state, slave-holding Unionists. Knowing he can better contend with the Fremont act’s abolitionist supporters, Lincoln removes him from command in Missouri and revokes the proclamation.

The war’s first act declaring total freedom for the slaves of Confederate masters, allows Lincoln to gauge the political landscape and prepare his arguments for 2nd Confiscation Act of 1862, the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th amendment to the Constitution.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Missouri's journey from slavery to freedom

In 1821, Missouri is admitted to the Union and gives its name to the Missouri Compromise. To maintain the balance among the 10 slave and 10 free states, Missouri and Maine (1820) are admitted as a package. More importantly, Missouri’s southern boundary is set as slavery’s northernmost border. As history shows, Missouri becomes a region surrounded by free territory and hence a continual fount of controversy and turmoil.

Unlike cotton-based slavery in much of the south, Missouri’s 'peculiar institution’ concentrates in the market crops of livestock, grains, hemp and tobacco. Many slaves work as teamsters and boat hands. Their numbers are concentrated in the counties along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

In 1825, the legislature declares blacks ‘invalid’ witnesses in any case involving whites. In 1847, the education of blacks is banned as well.

Elijah P. Lovejoy is a prominent abolitionist newspaper editor and publisher in St Louis where he prints editorials critical of slavery. Run out of town in 1836 he moves to Alton, Illinois in 1837, where his printing presses are destroyed 3 times by pro-slavery mobs from Missouri. In November 1837, he is gunned down by a mob seeking to destroy his fourth press.

The Missouri compromise is repealed, in effect, by the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. Almost as an afterthought, the concept of ‘popular sovereignty’ is written into the law, allowing settlers to determine if slavery is allowed in new territories. Pro-slavery settlers, mostly from Missouri, go to Kansas and local elections are influenced by the votes of Missouri ‘border ruffians’. Abolitionist settlers from the north come to Kansas and the clashes now named ‘bleeding Kansas’ are inevitable.

After ten years of appeals and reversals, the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott v. Sandford decision in 1857 rules that Congress’ forbidding of slavery in the territories is unconstitutional. It also further states that blacks are not citizens and have no rights that whites must recognize. Many persons believe the decision will lead to the legalization of slavery in all the states. Lincoln says,

"what Dred Scott's master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free state of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free state."

In 1860, there are 3,572 free blacks in the state of Missouri and 114,931 slaves.

Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 has no effect in Missouri, which has not seceded from the Union. Governor Thomas C. Fletcher proclaims emancipation on January 11, 1865 by executive fiat. Just under a year later, the Thirteenth Amendment forever bans slavery in the United States.

In 1866, the Legislature passes laws stating that separate schools should be provided for black children where they number more than 20 in a district.

Friday, April 11, 2008


In the fall of 1864, Sterling Price’s Army of Missouri raids through Missouri. Price, in communication with the many local partisan guerrilla groups, asks them to raise havoc and confusion by attacking Union posts and railroads. One such group, lead by William T. Anderson, operates in north central Missouri along both banks of the Missouri River. The fighting in this area is especially vicious. Anderson’s sister, Josephine, had died in Union custody when her jail building collapsed. Both sides often mutilated the dead after skirmishes and prisoners were often taken only for hostage purposes. Famous-to-be outlaws, the James and Younger brothers among then, ride with Anderson.

On the morning of September 27th Anderson’s band of 80 men, many dressed in captured blue uniforms, ride into Centralia to scout the area for the location of Union troops. The quickly locate and impress into service supplies of boots and whiskey. At 11:00 am the stage from Columbia arrives with the local Congressman and sheriff aboard. They manage to hide their identities as the guerrillas systematically rob them. During the robbery, a train whistle sounds from the east, inbound from St. Louis with 125 passengers including 23 unarmed Union soldiers on leave from Sherman’s army in Georgia.

Anderson’s blue-clad men block the rails, stop the train and herd everyone off into two groups: soldiers and civilians. The civilians are robbed and several killed as they fail to comply with guerilla orders. The soldiers are ordered to take off their uniforms. While they comply the rangers surround the half-clothed men. On Anderson’s order, his men to open fire and the Union soldiers pitch to the ground. Several run off, are chased and killed. The rangers walk among the bodies, finishing off the still-living. One sergeant, Thomas Goodman, is spared to be used as a hostage. The train is fired and sent westward on the tracks, the depot is burned and Anderson and his men return to their camp just outside of town.

That same afternoon, after seeing the smoke of the burning train and depot, a Union detachment rides into Centralia. Major A. V. Johnston commands 150 men of the 39th Missouri (mounted) Infantry, mostly inexperienced recruits carrying single-shot muzzle loading rifles. They find the smoking depot and the half-naked bodies of the murdered soldiers. Johnston interviews residents and learns that the guerrillas are still nearby. Shortly, thereafter, his scouts spy a small group of rangers who quickly ride away to the south. Not realizing the trick, Johnston orders his men to pursue across the prairie. Advancing to a ridgeline, Johnston spots a number of rangers in the tree line along a creek. His men dismount, form a battle line and move forward. Still a long way from the partisans, Johnston orders a volley, killing three men. At the sound of the volley, 2 bands of rangers emerge from the woods and attack either flank. The group in front moves up as to attack from three sides.

The Union soldiers have no time to reload. The Confederates ride upon them, killing the horse holders, scattering the horses and then turning on the main line. Each guerilla carries multiple revolvers. Some can fire 60 rounds without reloading. the ‘battle’ is over in minutes. One (again) Union soldier, Private Enoch Hunt, escapes the battlefield; the rest are killed. Johnston is reportedly shot down by Jesse James. After the battle it is noted that every Union soldier has a bullet in the head.

The rangers again walk among corpses, beheading some and scalping others. Anderson’s men then depart, leaving the bodies as a warning to others who may wish to oppose them. Only one month later, Anderson dies in an ambush similar to the one he had just perpetrated. The dead Union soldiers are buried in Centralia and moved to the national cemetery in the capital of Jefferson City after the war.

Here is a good battle description and maps and aerial photographs.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

CWPT annual meeting in Springfield

The Civil War Preservation Trust’s annual meeting is in Springfield Missouri, April 17-20. The conference focus is “War in the Ozarks: Trans-Mississippi and Missouri”.

Invited speakers and scholars include:
• Troy Banzhaf
• Edwin C. Bearss
• Vernon Burton
• Dave Hinze
• Ralph Jones
• Connie Langum
• Jeff Patrick
• William Garrett Piston
• John Rutherford
• Richard J. Sommers

See http://www.civilwar.org/travelandevents/ac2008.htm for more detail...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

General Order Number 11

Quantrill's raid and the sack of Lawrence provide the impetus for a measure previously under consideration by the Union authorities in western Missouri. On August 25, General Thomas L. Ewing issues General Order No. 11: everyone living in the Missouri counties of Jackson, Cass, Bates and Vernon, on the Kansas border, are ordered to leave within 2 weeks. Anyone living within one mile of Kansas City or 4 other towns may remain by taking an oath and posting a bond; everyone else has to pack up and go. This rule had been considered before; the Lawrence massacre renders it a practical necessity.

The area depopulated by the Order is known as the burnt district. Federal troops and Missouri State Militia patrol the area, burning abandoned crops, houses, barns and buildings and killing stock and abandoned animals. In Cass County, population 10,000 in 1860, only 600 people remained. The exodus is practically total, only 10% of the population remaining in what amounts to a chain of reservations.

The refugees are aided by Union soldiers but only with feelings of pity, not guilt: Quantrill's men had subsisted resided in these counties for months. Through August, September and into October, suspected Lawrence raiders were captured, interrogated and usually shot.

Here is the text of the order:
First, All persons living in Jackson, Cass and Bates Counties, Missouri, and in that part of Vernon included in this district, except those living within one mile of the limits of Harrisonville, Hickman Mills, Independence and Pleasant Hill and Harrisonville, and except those in the part of Kaw Township, Jackson County, north of Brush Creek and west of the Big Blue, embracing Kansas City and Westport, 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 nearest their present places of residence will receive from him certificates 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 the district, or to any part of the State of Kansas except the counties on 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.

Second, All hay and grain in the field, or under shelter in the district, from which the inhabitants are required to remove, within the reach of the military stations, after the 9th of September, next, will be taken to such stations and turned over to the proper officers there; and reports of the amounts so turned over made to district headquarters, specifying the name of all loyal owners and the amount of such produce taken from them. All grain and hay found in such district after the 9th of September, next, not convenient to such stations, will be destroyed.

The artist George Caleb Bingham created an excellent painting of the order being implemented.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Quantrill's Raid and the Lawrence Massacre

William C. Quantrill’s 300 men are armed to the teeth, mostly with multiple, accurate, long-barreled revolvers, and can fire between 30 and 60 rounds each without reloading. They head west and north from near Warrensburg, Missouri toward Lawrence, Kansas on August 20th, 1863. Riding all night, they leave a trail of dead Kansans behind, kidnapping locals who guide them toward Lawrence. As their captives familiarity with the trail dwindles, they are murdered with a bullet to the brain and another settler is pressed into fatal service.

In Lawrence, their primary target is Senator Jim Lane, ardent free-stater and anti-Missouri US Senator; looting and murder is a given.

Despite riding through Kansas for nearly 12 hours, no alarm is given. Entering the town at dawn, on August 21st, Quantrill misses Lane, who escapes in his pajamas to a cornfield. His men than embark on a morning of mayhem and murder. Houses and stores are looted and burned, men are shot down in their yards and chased into their houses before being summarily executed. Bodies are dumped down wells and thrown onto the burning pyres of houses.

A bit after 9 a.m., the bushwhacker column leaves Lawrence with 1/4th of the town destroyed and at least 185 dead men scattered about. They withdraw in the same general direction from which they came. A scattered and generally ineffective pursuit, poorly organized by various US and militia forces, cannot intercept Quantrill but does force him to abandon some loot and they kill and capture a small number of stragglers.

In response to the massacre, General Thomas Ewing, commanding the Union District of the Border, issues the (in)famous General Orders No. 11. The Order, in effect, depopulates 3 ½ counties of western Missouri, in an attempt to destroy Confederate guerilla’s support base and prevent similar future raids.

The Lawrence massacre is unique in the annals of American history. Large-scale massacres are not unknown – in 1862 Dakota Sioux attacked and killed many settlers near St. Paul in Minnesota; a year later, Colorado militia will massacre Indians at Sand Creek in Colorado. These other massacres in American history are all inter-racial or on the edges of frontier and 'civilization'. Lawrence, however, was a model American town and the perpetrators are other white, protestant, Anglo-Saxon Americans.

Friday, April 4, 2008


In September, 1862, Confederate forces under Colonel Joseph C. Porter raid Palmyra, in northeast Missouri, and capture, among others, Andrew Allsman, thought to be a Unionist informer. Eventually, Allsman is allowed to leave, but is never seen again. Speculation is that he has been murdered by local, secessionist residents or by some of Porter’s men.

On October 8, US Provost Marshal William R. Strachan publishes an open letter in the local Union newspaper, the Palmyra Courier to Porter, declaring that unless Allsman is returned within ten days, 10 of Porter's men, held as prisoners in Palmyra and Hannibal, will be executed.

The ten days elapse and nothing is seen of Allsman who, no doubt, has already been killed. On October 18, ten men in US custody are chosen by lot. The Courier reports:

“A few minutes after 1 o'clock, Colonel Strachan, provost-marshal-general, and Reverend Rhodes shook hands with the prisoners, two of them accepting bandages for their eyes. All the rest refused.

A hundred spectators had gathered around the amphitheater to witness the impressive scene. The stillness of death pervaded the place. The officer in command now stepped forward, and gave the word of command, "Ready, aim, fire."

The discharges, however, were not made simultaneously, probably through want of a perfect previous understanding of the orders and of the time at which to fire. Two of the rebels fell backward upon their coffins and died instantly. Captain Sidner sprang forward and fell with his head toward the soldiers, his face upward, his hands clasped upon his breast and the left leg drawn half way up. He did not move again, but died immediately. He had requested the soldiers to aim at his heart, and they obeyed but too implicitly. The other seven were not killed outright, so the reserves were called in, who dispatched them with their revolvers.

It seems hard that ten men should die for one. Under ordinary circumstances it would hardly be justified; but severe diseases demand severe remedies. The safety of the people is the supreme law. It overrides all other considerations. The madness of rebellion has become so deep seated that ordinary methods of cure are inadequate. To take life for life would be little intimidation to men seeking the heart's blood of an obnoxious enemy. They could well afford to make even exchanges under many circumstances. It is only by striking the deepest terror in them, causing them to thoroughly respect the lives of loyal men, that they can be taught to observe the obligation of humanity and of law.”

In 1907, Palmyra citizens erect a monument inscribed:
Erected to the Memory of
Capt. Thomas A Sidenor
Willis T. Baker
Thomas Humston
Morgan Bixler
John Y. McPheeters
Hiram T. Smith
Herbert Hudson
John M. Wade
Francis M. Lear
Eleazer Lake

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Civil War Missouri - top 10

After thinking a bit more (what a concept) on yesterday's post, by adding one more event this becomes a neatly chronological 'top 10' list:

1) Bleeding Kansas
2) Camp Jackson affair
3) Wilson’s Creek
4) battle of the hemp bales
5) Palmyra
6) The sack of Lawrence
7) General Order Number 11
8) Centralia massacre
9) Price’s 1864 raid
10) Westport

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Civil War Missouri - a very brief history

Missouri has a rich Civil war history. No other state better reveals the tension, bloodshed and politics of the era. The following 6 incidents offer the full flavor of the state and the nation from 1861- 1865:

1) Bleeding Kansas,
2) Camp Jackson affair ,
3) Wilson’s Creek ,
4) battle of the hemp bales ,
5) General Order Number 11,
6) Centralia massacre

A shorter list comprise a sort of second cut, but are somewhat redundant to those above:
1) The sack of Lawrence
2) Westport
3) Price’s 1864 raid

I'll shortly be writing on the remaining 3 topics that, in my mind, offer a primer of Missouri: 1861-1865.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

the battle of Belmont

Kentucky, with a Confederate governor but a Union legislature, declares itself neutral at the beginning of the war. This neutrality is first violated on September 3, 1861, when Confederate Maj. Gen. Leonidas Polk occupies Columbus, a key position on the Mississippi River. Two days later Union General Ulysses S. Grant moves from Cairo, Illinois, and takes Paducah, in Kentucky. Grant commands the district of Southeast Missouri and requests to attack Columbus overland. No such orders are forthcoming from theater commander General John C. Fremont and little happens in this corner of the war.

Fremont learns from a spy that the Confederates are reinforcing their forces in Arkansas. On November 1, Grant is ordered to feint toward Columbus to tie down the Confederate garrison. At first, he sends 3000 men under Col. Richard Oglesby into southeast Missouri. hearing that Confederate reinforcements are moving into Missouri toward Oglesby, Grant sends more men south and also orders General Charles F. Smith to move overland from Paducah to further pressure the Confederate position in Kentucky.

Grant chooses to attack Belmont in Missouri, a ferry landing on the Mississippi across from Columbus. Grant embarks 2 brigades of over 3000 men under General John A. McClernand and Colonel Henry Dougherty, 2 cavalry companies, and an artillery battery.

On November 6, 6 transports and 2 gunboats (the Tyler and Lexington) sail downstream from Cairo.

Polk has 5000 troops in Columbus. When he learns of Grant's expedition he surmises that Grant is feinting toward Belmont and Columbus is the true objective. General Gideon J. Pillow and 2700 men cross to Belmont and the rest remain in Kentucky.

At Belmont Grant finds a small Confederate picket camp, named Camp Johnston, and an artillery battery. He attacks in order to prevent reinforcement of the nearby Confederate troops Generals Sterling Price and M. Jeff Thompson of the Missouri State Guard, and to protect Oglesby's exposed left flank.

At 8:30 in the morning on November 7, Grant's force disembarks 3 miles north of Belmont, just out of range of Confederate batteries mounting large guns across the river in Columbus. They march south on the lone road into town, clearing obstructions of fallen timber and abatis. A mile from town, they form a line of battle in a corn field. The troops, arrayed from north to south, are the 22nd Illinois, 7th Iowa, 31st Illinois, 30th Illinois, and 27th Illinois, with a single cavalry company intermixed. On the low ridge northwest of the Belmont camp, the Confederate battle line is, from north to south, the 12th Tennessee, 13th Arkansas , 22nd Tennessee, 21st Tennessee, and 13th Tennessee.

Grant's attack pushes back the Confederate skirmish line and for the remainder of the morning, both armies, mostly green recruits, advance and retreat, over and over. At 2 p.m., Pillow's line collapses and he withdraws toward Camp Johnston. An orderly retreat turns to panic and four Federal guns join to bombard the retreating soldiers. A singular volley from the 31st Illinois, kills dozens of Confederates, the Union soldiers attack from three sides and surge into the camp. Grant is at the front, his horse is shot but ne mounts an aide’s and continues to lead.

The Confederates abandon guns and colors and run to the river and their 2 transports.

Grant's inexperienced soldiers are, in his words, "demoralized from their victory." McClernand moves to the camp’s center, now flying the Stars and Stripes, calls for three cheers and begins a victory speech. The men begin looting the camp and Grant struggles to regain control. He orders the camp burned and the men to return to the transports.

In the meantime, the Confederates ferry fresh troops over the river to cut off Grant’s line of withdrawal. These new men are the 15th Tennessee and 11th Louisiana under Pillow and Colonel Benjamin F. Cheatham. The Union troops exchange fire with the Confederate reinforcements, a Confederate gunboat fires into their ranks, Confederate guns fire across the river and the Union gunboats return fire in an increasingly confused battle. Grant tells an aide, "Well, we must cut our way out as we cut our way in."

At the landing, one Union regiment is unaccounted for, separated by the terrain. Grant gallops back to look for it, but finds only a mass of Confederate soldiers. He reverses course and rides for the river, finding that the transport captains have cast off lines. Grant later writes, "The captain of the boat that had just pushed out recognized me and ordered the engineer not to start the engine: he then had a plank run out for me. My horse seemed to take in the situation. He put his fore feet over the bank without hesitation or urging, and, with his hind feet well under him, slid down the bank and trotted on board."

The Confederates claim victory at Belmont. Grant’s demonstration is beaten off but his poor judgment gains invaluable experience. The Union losses are 120 dead, 383 wounded, and 104 captured or missing. The Confederate lose 105 killed, 419 wounded, 106 captured, and 11 missing.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Ulysses S. Grant, Missourian

Ulysses S. Grant graduates from West Point in 1843 as a second lieutenant and is assigned to the Fourth Infantry Regiment stationed at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, MO. He meets Julia Dent, the sister of a West Point classmate. They court, are engaged but the threat of war with Mexico delays the wedding.

In 1844, the Fourth leaves St. Louis for Louisiana and eventually, Texas when the Mexican War begins in 1846. After action in the battles at Cerro Gordo and Chapultepec, Grant returns to St. Louis in 1848. On August 22, 1848, Julia and Grant marry at the White Haven mansion which still stands today on Gravois Rd. near Grant’s Farm.

Grant remains in the army but is confronted by his commanding officer over excessive drinking. He resigns in 1855 and returns to St. Louis, living a life of successive failures. His father-in-law, Frederick Dent, gives the couple an 80 acre farm and Grant builds a cabin which he names “Hardscrabble”. The family lives on the farm from 1855 to 1858. Grant likes farming, but the poor quality of the land and Grant’s lack of expertise harvests nothing but failure. To make ends meet, he sells cord wood in St. Louis.

In 1859, Grant sells the farm and moves into St. Louis, taking a job as a rent collector in a relative’s real estate office. Failing there, he takes, and loses, a job in the U.S. Customs office. At the same time, Grant’s 2 younger brothers open a leather goods store up the Mississippi River in Galena, Illinois. In 1860, at their father’s insistence, they offer Grant a clerk’s job at $50 per month. He accepts, and moves to Galena. but shows little interest in the store or the trade.

The Civil War begins in 1861, President Lincoln calls for volunteers and Grant drills a local company, the ‘Jo Daviess Guards’, in Galena. He travels to Springfield, works for the Illinois adjutant general and applies for a commission, which is either lost or ignored, from the federal government. Eventually, Governor Richard Yates appoints Grant Colonel of the 21st Illinois Infantry. Grant leads these men across the Mississippi at Quincy to protect the Hannibal and St. Joseph Railroad. The Union army has cleared most of the state of organized Confederate forces leaving a vacuum into which are drawn local guerillas and bushwhackers. During an operation toward the hamlet of Florida, Grant writes this compelling snippet in his memoirs:

“As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’ [the southern commander] camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was valuable.”

From northeast Missouri, Grant is assigned to Ironton in the southeast, where he receives his commission of Brigadier General on July 31, to Jefferson City, then to Cape Girardeau in the bootheel and finally Cairo, Illinois at the juncture of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers on September 4th. In the former places, he plans and begins operations but is re-assigned before they bear fruit.

After Kentucky's fragile neutrality falls apart on September 3, 1861, , Grant moves quickly to capture Paducah, Kentucky, on the Tennessee River and to neutralize Columbus on the Mississippi. The battle at Belmont, Missouri, teeters from early success to virtual fiasco. After that battle , the direction of Grant’s career is eastward during the Civil War and eventually to the Presidency.

Endnotes: 1) the town of Florida, Mark Twain’s birthplace, is now almost totally surrounded by Mark Twain reservoir.

2) Grant’s memoirs are online at http://www.bartleby.com/1011/ and http://members.aol.com/_ht_a/historiography/grant.html among others...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Slowly Bleeding Kansas

After the sack of Lawrence, John Brown, four of his sons and a few others go to Pottawatomie Creek. On May 24, 1856 they drag five proslavery settlers from their homes and hack them to death with broadswords and pikes.

This massacre unleashes a season of confrontation and mayhem. Missourians cross the border and join forces to strike at Brown. 50 US dragoons from Fort Leavenworth lead by Col. E.V. Sumner arrive and disperse both sides. The pro-slavery faction moves out of site and through Osawatomie, pillage the town and capture 3 prisoners including 2 of John Brown’s sons.

On June 2, Brown confronts a party of Border Ruffians lead by Henry Pate at Black Jack and they battle for 3 hours before Pate and his men surrender. They are exchanged for Brown’s sons and the other Osawatomie prisoners.

The violence escalates and it’s nexus moves into southeast Kansas to Fort Scott, a predominantly pro-slavery area. The military abandoned the fort in 1853 and sold the buildings which now serve as the nucleus of a growing town. Two of the buildings are hotels: one is the ‘Free-State Hotel’ and the other the pro-slavery ‘Western’. Trouble begins there in the summer of 1856 as a group of 30 pro-slavery settlers from South Carolina arrive under the auspices of the Southern Emigrant Aid Society. They terrorize free-state locals and attempt to drive them from Kansas. Free-state men reciprocate with their own brand of terrorism.

On August 30, Osawatomie is again attacked, looted and burned by 250 border ruffians and local pro-slavery men. Five anti-slavery men are killed included Fredrick Brown, John’s son. The pro-slavery leader, John Reid, wishes to move on Topeka and Lawrence with the same medicine, but this battle dissuades him.

In September 1856, a new territorial governor, John W. Geary, arrives in Kansas hoping to restore order. He’ll last until March 1857, to be followed by Robert Walker and then James W. Denver in December 1857.

Radical elements from both sides are drawn to southeast Kansas. James Montgomery leads the free state forces, now known as ‘Jayhawkers’, in a number of violent attacks. In April, he fights US troops at Paint Creek and his men kill one soldier. In May, they drive pro-slavery men from Linn County.

In retaliation, on May 19, 1858, a pro-slavery group of 30 men lead by Georgian Charles Hamilton, kidnap and shoot 11 free-staters, killing 5 and wounding 5, in what becomes known as the ‘Marais des Cynges massacre’.

Montgomery attempts to burn Fort Scott’s Western Hotel but fails. Geary arrives on a peace-keeping mission at the Western. After a brief riot, an uneasy truce is arranged that ends in December when Montgomery’s raiders rescue a free-state man jailed at Fort Scott on murder charges and kill the former Deputy Marshall John Little. Little’s fiancĂ©, writes Montgomery, saying:


Listen to me. Today I heard that you said in a speech a few days ago that you were not sorry you had killed John Little. That he was not killed too soon. Can you before God say so? Oh, the anguish you have caused.

He was one of the noblest men ever created, brave and true to his country and to his word. You can't prove that he ever injured an innocent person. A few days more and we were to have been married, then go south to trouble you no more.

But through your influence, he was killed. He was sent to another world without even time to pray or to say goodbye to his friends. But thanks to God, though you did kill his body, you can't touch his soul. No. No, it is in the spirit land. Now the cry of "the Osages are coming!" can awaken him no more. He quietly sleeps in our little graveyard.

But remember this. I am a girl, but I can fire a pistol. And if ever the time comes, I will send some of you to the place where there is "weeping and gnashing of teeth". You, a minister of God? You mean a minister of the devil, and a very superior one too. I have no more to say to you and your imps. Please accept the sincere regards of your future repentance.

Gene Campbell

John Brown, now planning his later foray in Virginia, returns to Kansas. Others hope to make Kansas a free state, Brown aims a blow at the slave power everywhere. During his last residence, he crosses into Missouri, destroys considerable property, frees 11 slaves and murders a slave-owner.

Several attempts are made to draft a constitution with which Kansas can apply for statehood. Some versions are proslavery, others free state. Finally, a fourth convention meets at Wyandotte in July 1859, and adopts a free state constitution. Kansas applies for admittance to the Union. However, the proslavery forces in the Senate are still able to oppose its free state status, and again stall admission. Only in 1861, after the eleven slave states secede, does the constitution gain approval and Kansas become a state.

End note – John Brown's adopted home of Osawatomie is the site of Kansas’ oldest state psychiatric hospital.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

The crime against Kansas

In January 1856, Kansas free-staters hold a plebiscite affirming their illegal Topeka government. They elect a free-state legislature and a governor, Charles Robinson. Interestingly, the legislators are all Democrats and Robinson is a Republican. During the election, 2 men, one free-stater and one pro-slavery, are killed in a skirmish at Easton.

Though the election is fraudulent, the general population accepts it. This places President Franklin Pierce in quite a bind. He must continue to back the previously elected pro-slavery, squatter government under Shannon in order to keep the support of the southern wing of the Democratic Party. In case of ‘trouble’, Pierce offers Shannon the use of the army troops at Fort Leavenworth to keep the peace and enforce the laws of the legally elected Lecompton government.

On March 4th, the Topeka legislation seeks admission to the Union as a free state. Jim Lane and ‘Governor’ Robinson travel to Washington. Lane works with the old-line Democrats and Robinson with the anti-Nebraska Republicans in both the House of Representatives and then the Senate.

The House accepts the free state constitution and admission papers rather easily. The Senate, controlled by the Pierce administration, and with the debate run by Senators Lewis Cass and Stephen Douglas, do not. Douglas advances the logical proposition that Kansas has not enough population for statehood and the illogical one that the admission papers and constitution are Lane forgeries. The Pierce Democrats delay and deny Kansas’ admission to the Union.

The House sends a committee west to investigate events in the cauldron of Kansas. They arrive coincident with contingents of emigrants sponsored by Southern emigrant societies. With Kansas statehood now on the back burner, Judge Lecompte issues subpoenas to Robinson, Reeder, Lane and others for ‘treason against the state’. Robinson flees as far as Missouri, is arrested and returned to Lecompton. Reeder heads east in disguise and most other leaders disperse into hiding. Many are served, some resist and others are locked up. In attempting one arrest, the sheriff is wounded and the local US Marshall calls out the militia. Missourians respond to the call, stream across the border and again camp at Wakarusa under the direction of former Senator David Rice Atchison. Missourians again threaten the, mostly leaderless, free state stronghold of Lawrence.

In Washington on May 19, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts gives a speech on the ‘crime against Kansas’, avowing that liberty and freedom are denied, rather than advanced, by the government’s actions and inactions. Sumner especially ridicules President Pierce and Senators Douglas of Illinois and A.P. Butler of South Carolina. Two days later, Sumner is caned into senselessness on the Senate floor by Butler’s nephew, Congressman Preston Brooks.

Meanwhile, the border ruffians camped on the Wakarusa demand the sidearms of Lawrence residents. Rebuffed, they ride into town to confiscate all they can. Unlimbering cannon in front of the Free State hotel, the hotel is burned, two newspaper offices destroyed, the library ransacked and then the town is looted. Their work done, the Missouri forces return to their homes.

Monday, January 21, 2008

the Wakarusa War

The legislators at Pawnee seat all the first election’s chosen men and exclude those recently elected in the disputed district’s second elections. The only free-state legislator resigns in protest and the entire body votes to adjourn to the Shawnee Mission, on the Missouri border and closer to their benefactors, supporters and voters. Reeder vetoes the act, which then passes over his veto.

In Shawnee Mission, armed with a brace of pistols, Governor Reeder presides over the 2nd meeting of legislature, which pretty much ignores his presence. President Pierce dismisses Reeder in order to appease his southern backers and in hopes of uniting the 2 wings of the Democrats together he appoints Wilson Shannon in his place, a loyal Democrat who had voted for the Kansas-Nebraska Act.

Before Shannon’s arrival, the legislature passes a strict slave code and requires all voters to swear to uphold the law. The legislature wishes to establish a permanent capital and name it ‘Douglas’, but soon changes the name to ‘Lecompton’ – appealing to the vanity of US district Judge Samuel D. Lecompte.

Further west, free-staters convene at Big Springs on September 5, 1855, hoping to draft a competing free-state constitution and legislature. Overwhelming majorities in attendance are Democrats but Republicans watch closely for both direction and opportunity. The free-stares are well aware that the President, governor, judges, recognized legislature and, perhaps soon the army, are opposed to them. Former Governor Reeder attends and in a keynote speech urges them to protect their rights with a ‘steady aim and sure eye’ – a call to action!

After drafting a free constitution, the ‘Topeka Movement’ adjourns on November 11. Their organization quickly creates civil chaos as petty criminals dodge among the two factions seeking protection, especially over land claims. The murder of Charles Dow, a free- state squatter by proslavery Franklin Coleman brings the problem to a head. Over a hundred men congregate at the scene of the crime, 10 miles south of Lawrence. Pro-slavery men flea to Missouri and their houses are torched. The sheriff, with Coleman as guide, rides to arrest one of Dow’s friends. The posse is met, threatened and retreats to Shawnee Mission vowing vengeance on Kansas in general and Lawrence in particular.

Sheriff Jones appeals to Governor Shannon for 3000 militia to counteract the flouting of his authority. Only a handful responds to the call. Shannon calls on the US Army at Fort Leavenworth headed by Colonel Edwin Sumner, an anti-slavery man, who refuses to send troops unless ordered by the President. However, some 1500 Missourians with 7 cannon from the Liberty arsenal are also en route and soon make camp in Wakarusa, 3 miles from Lawrence. Jim Lane organizes the citizens of Lawrence, drills them and erects blockhouses and fortifications. Among the Kansas forces are seven large men from Osawatomie named Brown, armed with short swords and long pikes.

For the first time armies from Kansas and Missouri face off, beginning a war that will last until 1865. However this time, cold December weather dampens the men’s ardor. A pair of messengers from Lawrence are allowed to pass through Wakarusa with a message for the governor in Shawnee Mission. Reeder insists that the free-staters obey the laws and give up their weapons. The messengers are astounded and remind him that no laws had been broken and of their right to bear arm. Shannon rides west, noting that the men in the pro-slavery Wakarusa camp are Missourians. He arrives in Lawrence and sees the body recently murdered man. Finally convinced that war is being forced upon Kansas by the Border ruffians, Shannon returns to powwow with the Missourians and signs a ‘treaty’ convincing them to return home.

However, Jim Lane has a trick up his sleeve. He sends word from his camp to the governor back that the Missourians are not dispersing and are, in fact, moving on the town. Would the governor authorize him, in writing, to resist with arms? The governor does, discovers that no attack is truly forthcoming and that the order is now widely distributed stating that Kansans are now authorized to resist attacks on their state by Missourians.

So the Wakarusa War ends, with one man killed, the others going home and with a new determination, however achieved, on the part of free-state residents to defend themselves from Missouri border ruffians. On December 15, 1855 a large majority ratifies the Topeka Constitution showing the true free will of the Kansas populace.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Opening gambit in Kansas

Kansas’ first territorial governor, Andrew H. Reeder, of Pennsylvania, arrives in October 1854 and tours the state searching for a capital site. Many Missourians stake land claims in Kansas and return to their native state, intent on recrossing the border when needed to vote - the law is unclear as to voters residency requirements.

Reeder announced the election for congressional delegate. Missouri Senator Atchison leads a legion of Missourians across the border and to the polls. Ballot stuffing is an American tradition and the result is accepted when pro-slavery J.W. Whitfield is elected. One man is killed during the voting.

Elsewhere during the fall elections, many congressman that voted for the Kansas-Nebraska Act are ousted and their places taken by ‘anti-Nebraska’ men. The temper of the Congress will be different than before.

Reeder chooses Shawnee mission as the temporary capital, calls for the election of the territorial legislature on March 30, 1855 and takes a census. The census counts 8501 free whites, 242 slaves and 151 freemen living in Kansas.

New England emigrants begin steaming up the Missouri River to settle in Kansas, principally Lawrence. Missourians delay and harass them at the river towns. As the day of the legislative election draws nigh, Missouri border counties organize contingents to vote in Kansas. Steamboats offer special rates to these groups.

Lawrence is the focal point of Kansas realpolitik. A thousand border ruffians, several cannon and Claiborne Fox Jackson gather east of town to ‘help’ with the vote. Jackson explains the vague Kansas residency requirements for voting and disperses the men to vote in the neighboring precincts. Lawrence counts 781 pro-slavery and 253 free-soil ballots. Later investigations reveal 232 legal votes.

In Leavenworth an attorney questioning the balloting is tarred and feathered. An abolitionist newspaper press is destroyed.

80 percent of the 6200 votes cast are later deemed frauds. One free-state man is elected to the legislature. Reeder decides to certify all the returns except the most fraudulent, appeasing neither side. Dr. Charles Robinson writes influential friends in the East asking for more aid, more emigrants and 200 Sharps rifles. Until the arms can arrive, the citizens of Lawrence build a fine hotel-fort. Made of concrete, with portholes and battlements, the Free-State Hotel is a rallying point for free-soil settlers.

The newly elected legislature meets at the new capital site of Pawnee, adjacent to Fort Riley in western Kansas, where the tall-grass prarie ends and the short-grass begins. Reeder heads east to brief the President, but Atchison has already told a story that Pierce takes to heart. Evidence of proslavery aggression and usurpation of the vote are everywhere, yet Pierce refuses to believe them. The trouble draws newspapermen, journalists and writers, mostly abolitionist, to Kansas and one other man, Jim Lane of Indiana.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

The Kansas-Nebraska Act

Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois calculates that the Kansas-Nebraska Act would end the political turmoil over slavery, appease the South and convince the North that a free economy would triumph over slavery in any fair contest. In the meantime the act would reunite the Democratic Party with him at the helm and catapult Douglas into the White House.

Calculus is a difficult subject. Senator Douglas’ grade in this test of political calculus is F.

The bill is simple enough: revoke the Missouri Compromise of 1820, open all territories to any settler and have the ballot decide whether to allow or exclude slavery.

Rather than Douglas’ vision, the bill splits the Democrats, reinvigorates abolitionists, brings attention, tension and bloodshed to Kansas and births the Republican Party,

President Franklin Pierce backs the act, making it a test of party loyalty. Senator David Atchison of Missouri was foremost among its backers. The act would pass along party lines but there was, in effect, no party in opposition to the Democrats. Opposition was almost entirely grass roots and homegrown. Mass meetings, antislavery groups and conventions resolve to oppose the act. Clergymen sign protests. In the north arises a whirlwind of resentment and condemnation. New England emigrant aid societies sent pioneers west for decades; now they focus on sending them to Kansas.

Amazingly, Pierce, Atchison and Douglas are totally surprised and aghast. They expect the entire United States to step aside and allow their constituents to have their way in Kansas. Indeed, the entire South expects the same. Pierce signs the bill on May 30, 1854. With his penstroke, the Civil War begins.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Bleeding Kansas

The first battle of the Civil War is Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The first shots fired at US forces of the Civil War are at Harper’s Ferry by John Brown’s men on October 16, 1859. John Brown made his reputation in the 1850s ’Bleeding Kansas’. 'Bleeding Kansas’ results from the policy of ‘popular sovereignty’, enabled in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and fathered by the tremendously ambitious Stephen A. Douglas.

Douglas wishes to improve his Presidential chances with concessions to the South by repealing the Missouri Compromise and allowing a territory’s inhabitants to determine the slavery question. He grossly underestimates the negative reaction of anti-slavery forces.

Most of the early immigrants to Kansas are Southern and many from Missouri. Naturally, they lean to ensuring Kansas is a slave state. Northern anti-slavery organizations soon organize and send thousands of settlers as well. The eastern Kansas counties tend to be pro-slavery and free-staters settle in western Kansas - Atchison and Leavenworth, in eastern Kansas, are pro-slavery towns; Topeka, Lawrence and Manhattan, farther west, become free-state towns.

[It pays to review a little geography: In an era where 20 miles is a day’s travel, ‘eastern’ Kansas is the tier of counties along the Missouri border; ‘western’ Kansas was the next western tier. Today’s state of Colorado is part of the Kansas territory and present-day Wyoming is part of the Nebraska territory.]

In 1854, with 2900 registered voters, many Missourians cross the border to vote in Kansas’ first territorial vote. 6000 total votes are cast in the election, most by these ‘Border Ruffians’, for a Congressional delegate. This tactic continues in 1855 when the first legislature is elected, ensuring a strongly pro-slavery, pro-Southern legislature which meets and passes pro-slavery laws. This leads to the formation of a free-state shadow government in Topeka and the relatively bloodless ‘Wakarusa War’. President Franklin Pierce opposes the Topeka government and backs the elected pro-slavery government.

In May 1856 pro-slavery Border Ruffians attack Lawrence, burn the Free State Hotel, loot stores, ransack homes and demolish 2 print shops. The next day, Senator Charles Sumner is caned by Preston Brooks in the US Capitol for criticizing the South for the violence in Kansas. Days later, John Brown, his sons and some followers, hack 5 pro-slavery men to death in Pottawatomie, Kansas.

The Kansas capital moves to Lecompton and a congressional committee labels the previous elections to be fraudulent. Pierce ignores their finding, continues to recognize the pro-slavery Lecompton legislature and sends troops to disperse the free-state Topeka shadow government. In August 1856, both sides form virtual armies and hostilities rage through October. In all 56 people were killed on both sides. A new (the 3rd) territorial governor, John W. Geary, takes office and manages to broker a fragile peace.

By 1859, the influx of free-staters overwhelms the small number of pro-slavery immigrants and an uneasy peace reigns until the Civil War brings guerilla violence to the border in 1861.